Sunday, January 15, 2012

What’s happened with the fight against AIDS? Giving props to documentaries about AIDS.

Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog
I ask that question as a follow-up to a recent post I wrote about the ten documentaries I am most looking forward to in 2012. One of them is Act-Up!, the story of the galvanizing activists who fought to raise awareness about AIDS. In honor of all those who have had to deal with the epidemic in one way or the other, I want to give props to some documentaries about AIDS. But, first, let’s take a quick look at answering my initial question (all numbers are culled from The New York Times).
What’s happened with the fight against AIDS?
There are 34 million people currently infected with the virus in the world, and that includes 1.2 million Americans (240,000 of whom are unaware). Recently, President Obama announced he wanted to set up programs to provide drug therapy to six million infected people by the end of 2013, which is up from about four million. What’s most troubling is that the epidemic has reached a plateau internationally, with 2.7 million new people being infected each year for the past five years. Asia and Eastern Europe are two of the regions where the numbers are increasing most.
For those who want to learn more about AIDS through documentaries, I’ve come up with a few places where you can start. First, I’d recommend FRONTLINE’s The Age of Aids, a comprehensive series from 2006, about the history and politics of AIDS which you can watch online. And for a more personal look, there’s 1993’s Silverlake Life: The View from Here, a video diary which aired on POV about living with AIDS.
And then thanks to Lee Mills at Screen Junkies, there’s an intriguing list of “the five best AIDS documentaries,” which includes The Lazarus EffectThe Origin of AIDS,The Other CityAIDS Inc., and House of Numbers: Anatomy of an EpidemicSnagFilms also has a selection of mostly international AIDS docs, many of which were shot in Africa, that also can be viewed online for free.
That should get us started, if you want to use documentaries as a guide, on answering the question about what’s happened to the epidemic. Still, I look forward to Act-Up!, which, as it turns out, won’t be the first film about the pioneering activists. Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP, by director James Wentzy, came out in 2002.
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Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written forThe New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki

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