March 1, 2013
Bible Belt communities and HIV/AIDS conferences have viewed "deepsou+h," which independent journalist and filmmaker Lisa Biagiotti created to document HIV/AIDS in the rural South. Biagiotti hopes the film will stimulate HIV discussion, especially among sex educators; faith communities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. To capture content for "deepsou+h," Biagiotti traveled 13,000 miles through the rural South and interviewed more than 400 HIV-affected people throughout a two-year period.
The stories of three individuals form the centerpiece of "deepsou+h": Monica Johnson, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of HEROES; Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama; and college student Joshua Alexander. Johnson, who has been HIV-infected for 28 years, lost a three-year-old son to HIV. Johnson's organization, HEROES, provides HIV prevention through after-school activities in rural Louisiana. Hiers stated that more than half of HIV deaths have taken place in the South. Alexander has had HIV for six years.
The film's first community showing took place at Edisto Fork United Methodist Church. Other venues have included a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day showing in Orangeburg, S.C.; the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.; and the 2012 United States Conference on AIDS in Las Vegas.
South Carolina viewers' comments addressed the fact that everyone -- not just gay men -- is vulnerable to HIV infection. Although improvements in HIV education are needed, Aaron Bryan, HIV coordinator for the, Department of Health and Environmental Control/South Carolina Department of Education's S.C. Healthy Schools, noted that factors such as poverty heavily influence health outcomes. Others expressed hope that the Affordable Care Act will result in increased access to healthcare for South Carolina residents.