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Sign an Open Letter to Tyler Perry: Stop Stigmatizing People With HIV

May 20, 2013

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

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An Open Letter to Tyler Perry

Dear Mr. Perry,

We write as people living with HIV and their allies to express our deep disappointment with your latest film, Temptation. This disappointment is made all the greater because you have done much that can be applauded. Audiences see your plays and films not simply as entertainment, but as opportunities for inspiration, spiritual healing, and unity.

In Temptation, however, you have done a great disservice to people with HIV, and particularly to the African-American community, which, as you know, is disproportionately affected by HIV.

As you may be aware, one of the greatest barriers to addressing the HIV epidemic is the high level of stigma and misinformation attached to this simple virus. Stigma prevents people from getting tested for HIV, from protecting themselves during sex, from accessing care when they test positive, and from disclosing their HIV status to family, friends, and sexual partners. Myths and outdated perceptions about how HIV is transmitted and the implications of an HIV diagnosis have resulted in discriminatory treatment towards, and violence against, people living with HIV.


Unfortunately, Temptation can only serve to perpetuate stigma. Your film depicts people with HIV as untouchable and unlovable, doomed to a lifetime of loneliness, and unable to tell their own stories. It implies that men with HIV are sexually irresponsible and predatory. And the final image -- that of a woman who has been infected with HIV due to an extramarital affair walking away alone and unhealthy -- sends the message that HIV is a punishment for immoral behavior.

Mr. Perry, as a leader in the African-American community, is this really the message you want to send in 2013, over three decades into this epidemic? Your impact on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in the community is not insignificant. And if you portray people with HIV as sinful, secretive monsters, unworthy of love and incapable of reproduction, what incentive do people have to learn their HIV status or for people with HIV to disclose their status?

HIV is not something that "guilty" people get. It is not a punishment for cheating, lying, using drugs or alcohol, having more than one partner, or not asking the right questions. It is a virus whose transmission is fueled by poverty, ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, fear, violence, and many other factors - not by people with HIV. In fact, studies show that the overwhelming majority of people with HIV fiercely protect their partners once they know their HIV status. Many of us are in long-term relationships with HIV-negative partners. And yes, we even have children!

We call on you to undo the damage that your film has undoubtedly already caused.

We ask you to meet with people living with HIV and hear our stories. We know that you are deeply committed to the communities that have supported your work and we ask that you make a public statement and consult with us to develop storylines that will help end HIV stigma so we can get to the real business of ending this epidemic, together.

Your response is greatly appreciated and we look forward to hearing from you in the very near future. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

We await your response.


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More From This Resource Center

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Tyler Perry's Temptation Sentences People With HIV to a Lifetime of Stigma and Isolation
U.S. Positive Women's Network

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

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: CGT (Timbuktu ) Thu., Oct. 31, 2013 at 6:21 am UTC
Who is Tyler Perry?
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Comment by: joe (baton rouge, la) Mon., Aug. 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm UTC
I think tyler perrys movie was sad but i dont think he was yrying to say that were morally wrong or we will be alone forever. maybe thats just how he saw her character. maybe the message he was trying to put out was protect yourself. maybe if we had more people like tyler perry who is real enough to put the issue out there people would learn more about it. Some people with the virus are predators. and sone of us do end up alone. it was alot easier to date before i was diagnosed. tyler perry should continue his work.
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Comment by: Elaine Colon (San Juan, PR) Thu., Aug. 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm UTC
I know you will do the right thing.
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Comment by: Jeffrey (Orlando, FL) Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm UTC
No More Tyler Perry movies for me and my family...How could you be so ignorant in this day and age. Your comments are disgusting, hurtful and send a chilling message for those people thriving and living well with HIV. Yes, prevention is best way to go but for many (like my Brother) that ship has sailed. Again, you are a non issue in my home from now on.
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Comment by: Anonymous Thu., Jul. 4, 2013 at 2:37 pm UTC
The movie depicts a woman who suffers a consequence for her infidelity, and that consequence is HIV. the character cannot be depicted a healthy, happy, Black woman living with the virus, because the movie would not serve its purpose- to show audiences that choices like these may have a hefty price. I'm no Tyler perry fan, but people, it isn't that deep. He's a FILMMAKER, that's all. He tells a story. The movie served its purpose. Drop it and leave the man alone.
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Comment by: Krista K (Bay Area, CA) Fri., May. 31, 2013 at 4:20 pm UTC
I saw the movie "Temptation" and allI could think about the movie was how you slut-shamed the main character the entire time.
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Comment by: Bill D (Oakland, CA.) Fri., May. 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm UTC
Mr. Perry. Please view a number of important PBS films about AIDS in the Black Community. Go to Google and type in PBS, Aids and Black Community.
MANY heterosexual black women and men have worked tirelessly for 30 years to heal and conquer the stigma that you want to put on a pedastal in 2013-2014. Also, as you must know, MANY are aware of the possibility of OUTING YOU. So, I think some deep thought on your end needs to happen.
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Comment by: Robert W. (Washington Dc) Sun., May. 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm UTC
retweet from Ontell Babbitt

No it sends a message that being irresponsible with your sexual health can cost you YOUR LIFE.
It sends a message that the fasted growing number of newly reported HIV cases are found in straight married women this past decade.
Guess how many people Tyler Perry likely SAVES with the impact of this movie?
Thank you.
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Comment by: Sanam G. (La Verne, CA, USA) Fri., May. 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm UTC
You have to counter pervasive problems pertaining to public health with information rather than stigmatization.
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Comment by: An Mays (Atl. Ga.) Fri., May. 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm UTC
I just wanted to make a correction. Tyler Perry isn't a leader in the Black community as you stated in your letter.
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Comment by: W. O. Neal (Baltimore, MD) Fri., May. 24, 2013 at 11:04 am UTC
"With great power comes great responsibility"
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Comment by: H1tters (Broward) Mon., May. 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm UTC
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