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Tyler Perry's Temptation Sentences People With HIV to a Lifetime of Stigma and Isolation

April 16, 2013

"Tyler Perry's Temptation left me emotionally pained, angry and disappointed. Mr. Perry, a brilliant film maker, missed a genuine opportunity for honest and accurate community education around HIV. Instead, Temptation perpetuated HIV sensationalism and stigma. It demonized people living with HIV as irresponsible and portrayed women who acquire HIV as an undesirable, reclusive, sub-species, destined to live out their lives in suffering," commented Waheedah Shabazz-El, a woman living with HIV.

Two weekends and $212.7 million later, Tyler Perry's film Temptation perpetuates the War on Women, fuels stigma and discrimination towards people of color and people living with HIV, and condones the belief that people living with HIV are sinners, who deserve punishment.

Positive Women's Network - USA, a national membership body of women living with HIV advocating for the rights and dignity of all women, is deeply disturbed by Perry's stigmatizing portrayal of women, people living with HIV and people of color. Instead of using his film as a moment to challenge the rampant violence against women in our society, break down the self-hatred that causes people to live in shame, and showcase powerful role models for our young girls and boys, Perry demonizes and vilifies people of color and people living with HIV -- two of the most targeted, profiled and marginalized communities in the U.S.

By perpetuating a rhetoric that raises illogical fears that HIV-positive people are inherently violent, corrupt, immoral and deviant, Perry plays into the misguided belief that people living with HIV deserve to be punished. In the U.S., HIV criminalization laws are real. They separate families and lock up people in 34 states and 2 territories. These laws are barriers, preventing people from HIV testing, accessing treatment and seeking medical care or social support. Many people living with HIV believe they do not deserve a fulfilling and dignified life. These laws do not prevent HIV transmission, they keep people from knowing their status or seeking care. His film effectively reverses the phenomenal victories of groups working to combat HIV stigma and criminalization, including the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, SERO Project and Positive Justice Project.

By creating a rhetoric that condones violence against women and blames women for their "actions," Perry dismisses the complex realities of women's lives.

Movies and messages like this reinforce judgments that are akin to a societal death penalty. Women are dying because they can't bear knowing and/or don't want anyone else to know that they may be living with HIV. Thus they may choose not to engage in care, take medication and/or disclose. 2 out of 3 women who newly test positive are Black women. Women are more likely to be diagnosed late with a dual HIV and AIDS diagnosis. In addition, Black women account for the largest share of deaths among all women living with HIV and in 2009, HIV was the 4th leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 44. Stigma and discrimination are largely responsible for women getting sick faster and dying sooner.

As partners, sisters, mothers, daughters, teachers and lovers living with HIV, we denounce Perry's portrayal of HIV as a punishment for bad behavior. We further denounce Perry's portrayal of HIV-positive women as unworthy of love, incapable of relationships and his portrayal of men living with HIV as sexually irresponsible predators.

Positive Women's Network -- USA calls for the responsible and respectful use of the media by filmmakers. Mr. Perry, as someone with incredible power, resources and privilege to dictate our society's culture and norms, it is your responsibility to accurately represent those who you portray. Give us a call next time you want to make a film about women and HIV.

Send PWN-USA an email.

Read PWN-USA's blog, U.S. Positive Women's Network

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U.S. Positive Women's Network

This article was provided by Positive Women's Network of the United States of America. Visit PWN-USA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: wilbur (n.y.) Thu., Jun. 20, 2013 at 11:56 am UTC
I feel a lot of anger simmering inside Tyler Perry. Perhaps coming out would be a good place to start the healing process.
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Comment by: trinity (ATlanta, Ga) Tue., Jun. 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm UTC
thank you so much for writing this article. first of all am not a fan so I don't watch the crap tyler perry produces but this temptation movie raised so much uproar (cos of his ignorance about hiv)that I almost watched it, but I only watched the trailer and read people display their anger on the internet. you guys need to understand that tyler perry likes to make dirty money by making other people's situation worse, I heard about his coonery buffoonery drama where he acts an extremely mad old woman, disgracing the black elderly women yet that's the stupid drama that made him RICH. now he turns on the people living with hiv, and as usual he was stupid enough not to call any hiv/aids organization to ask the intelligent people about the disease, he went ahead, wrote, produce and direct such a stupid movie yet some idiots still went out to watch it and still support this greedy man. I believe he lost a lot of followers after this mess..this is not the first time tyler is doing a movie portraying hiv as a punishment disease, am beginning to think he is hiv positive and just doesn't know how to express it. someone should tell him to wake up, its 2013!!!
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Comment by: Shan (DC) Fri., Apr. 26, 2013 at 2:49 am UTC
Funny, I thought the same thing too. A great opportunity was missed to help reduce the stigma and shame associated with HIV. I felt cheated and wanted more a crappy ending. I feel exactly like the two ladies in the movie. I wish they were given a voice.
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Comment by: Shereen (Tacoma) Thu., Apr. 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm UTC
I just saw the movie and I did not get that at all. There is a very clear and spiritual message in this movie which is true to the bible. The voice of temptation appears to be the truth, appears to be out for your best interest and a better life. But the truth is, if we fall into the deceitful lure of temptation, he will destroy everything he can in our lives. Our marriage, our health, our families, our self-esteem, our relationship with God. Things that take a lifetime to repair and rebuild. Although Gods love and grace is with us the moment we repent, it takes us a while to forgive ourselves...and others. Every seed we plant good or bad will bring forth its fruit. In this case, the fruit was an std and the loss of her marriage. It's very sad. Her life didn't end with HIV, she is now saving marriages and helping others to see the light before they end up losing what's valuable to them too. I think she had a victorious ending, even with HIV. A lot of people need to see this movie to help them think before they give in to temptation. I think if anything, this movie gave a positive message for the HIV community. And that is that REAL people, with REAL lives, good people, kind people, people that were once healthy little kids playing, running and dreaming come in contact with this disease. HIV doesn't have a name, just like every other std out there it is just waiting for anyone. Our chance of obtaining life altering std's is slim to none if we stay faithful in our marriages (Gods plan to protect us) and teach our children the same. I hope all of you out there dealing with HIV know that in Gods eyes you are loved, in God's Word there is healing and in your life there is great purpose. Have a Christ centered day!
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Comment by: KB Thu., Apr. 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm UTC
And comments like this show the wrongheaded was that gives life to offensive films like "Tenptation". If you think that's a positive message to HIV-positive people, it may behoove you to actually ask a few positive people - like the one who wrote this article - how it made them feel.
Comment by: Beau (Detroit, MI) Tue., Jun. 18, 2013 at 7:23 pm UTC
Not everyone with HIV was offended by this movie. Many see it for what it is( another Tyler Perry movie). Others just don't care. Don't let this movie get the best of you. Perry hates black people, HIV positive or not.

Comment by: Dorothea Moore (New York) Wed., Apr. 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm UTC
interesting article although i havent seen the movie i will. Wow
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