Pennsylvania: Local Teens Play Role in HIV Documentary
February 19, 2010
Saturday marks the local premiere of an HIV/AIDS documentary that explores the epidemic through the voices of black teenagers at Pittsburgh's Westinghouse High School. The free screening of "Why Us? Left Behind and Dying" will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture.
Producer and director Claudia Pryor Malis faced significant hurdles when she started the project in 2006. It took a year to get permission from Pittsburgh Public Schools to film at Westinghouse.
"At the beginning, the kids said, 'We don't want to talk about that,'" said Malis. "'You are just here because we're black!' they told me. They didn't want to be stigmatized as a school with AIDS."
Eventually, 20 teenagers signed on. However, their faces are never shown on camera because they were part of a National Institutes of Health-funded research project to assess whether their participation would lead them to get tested for HIV and promote safe-sex awareness, said Malis.
The teens interview epidemiologists, religious leaders, gay activists, people with HIV, IV drug users, and doctors in the United States and Africa. The documentary is narrated by Tamira Noble, now a junior at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg. Noble said she decided to take part after realizing she "didn't want to be ignorant any more" about HIV/AIDS.
A key focus is continuing stigma and homophobia in the black community. A pastor who works to help and comfort HIV-positive congregants nevertheless continues to insist the biblical prohibition of homosexuality is "infallible." A gay man is regarded warily by the students, who ask him questions like whether or not he wears women's clothes.
For more information on the screening, telephone 412-258-2700.
02.19.2010; Mackenzie Carpenter
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.