The documentary is written, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Renata Simone.
“The film is about race in America as much as it is about HIV—how a virus has exploited our inability to deal with our problems around race,” Simone says in a press release about the documentary.
“In part I hoped to show how the big, abstract social issues come to rest on people every day, in the limited life choices they face. The story of HIV in black America is about the private consequences of the politics of race,” Simone adds.
By delving into the reasons why AIDS is so much worse in black America, Simone discusses the issues of how “prejudice, silence and stigma have allowed the virus to spread deep into the black community.”
The documentary begins 30 years ago with discovery of the “gay cancer” — and the fact that Patient Zero was a white man. But several of the first patients were also black. In the documentary, Simone interviews Julian Bond, a civil rights activist who served in the Georgia House and Senate. Bond acknowledged that at the beginning of AIDS in America, black people did not believe there were black gay people and therefore AIDS was not an issue to deal with.
“Was it on my radar? I don’t really know if it was something that I felt I didn’t want to get engaged in, or what the reason was. … Well, I feel badly about myself,” he says in the documentary. “It’s a bad reflection on me that I didn’t take a more leading role than I did. I could have; I should have. I was in a position of responsibility. I could have done it, and I didn’t.”
Nearly half of the approximate 1 million people in the U.S. infected with HIV are black men, women and children, even though blacks make up just 12.6 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
“If black America were a country, it would have the 16th highest infection rate in the world,” says Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, states in “Endgame.”
Included in the documentary is Craig Washington, an openly gay man and longtime HIV/AIDS activist in Atlanta who works for AID Atlanta as the preventions program manager.
Also included is an eye-opening interview with George Herron (Health Services Director) and Earl Joyner, MD, of the Fulton County Jail.
“They do have sex—more than a little,” Dr. Joyner says of the inmates and he stresses the need to care about HIV-positive inmates.
“If I showed you a list of inmates that are being paroled out of state prison per month, it would take up two pages. So these people don’t stay here indefinitely. They’re not here for life. They go back to the community,” Joyner adds.
Other Atlanta connections include interviews with Jeff McDowell, executive director of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Center which runs a needle exchange program and offers free HIV tests; and Dazon Dixon Diallo, founder and president of SisterLove who discusses women who were infected with HIV in the 1990s and how the government looked away and did not classify AIDS as an illness.
Director Simone also follows Magic Johnson on a trip to his doctor. The famed basketball star revealed he was HIV positive in 1991.
Photo: Magic Johnson has his blood drawn as part of his treatment for being HIV postive. (Photo by Renata Simone Productions)