Viewing HIV/AIDS: perspectives in films

Viewing HIV/AIDS: perspectives in films

Throughout March there are many opportunities to learn more about HIV/AIDS. The National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) is observed on March 10th. The NWGHAAD “increases awareness, sparks conversations, and highlights the work being done to reduce HIV among women and girls in the US while showing support for those with HIV.” The first day of Spring (March 20th) is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD). Since 2007, the NNHAAD has successfully been promoting and educating Native Americans about HIV and AIDS. March 9th there will be free and confidential HIV testing from 2-4 pm at the Center for Health Promotion on campus (Hayes Hall 064). This event is hosted by the IU East LGBTQ+ Connections, Office of Diversity, Center for Health Promotion, Campus Library, and Aspire Indiana Health. For more information see the HIV-AIDS resource guide.

There are many films that represent varied perspectives about HIV/AIDS and we’ve selected a few to highlight here. You can find these as well as more than 150 videos available for streaming through the IU East Campus Library. If you would like help in locating and accessing additional films, you are welcome to Ask Us! Simply email or click this button:

Memories of a Penitent Heart

In the documentary Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016), film-maker Cecilia Aldarondo looks at her family to understand the family secrets, religious conflicts, torn hearts, and unresolved pain that has been going on for over 25 years with one person at the center, her uncle Miguel. Miguel, who passed away in the early ’90s, died during a “time when AIDS was synonymous with sin.” Miguel’s illness “pulled him between his soul mate who wanted him to be himself, and his mother, who wanted him to repent his sinful life so that he could get into heaven.” Memories of a Penitent Heart examines how we try to be what those who love us want us to be, while also being true to ourselves.


In 1980, Ken Horne of San Francisco would be the first recognized case of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. It was reported to the CDC as Kaposi sarcoma (a form of cancer). No one knew how HIV/AIDS was spread, or really what to even call it. Was this something that spread through the air? In hospitals, doctors and nurses would wear hazmat suits and some would even refuse to touch a patient who was suffering from what was then called “gay cancer.” In 1983, Nurse Cliff Morrison opened Ward 5B at the San Francisco General Hospital, the first dedicated AIDS unit in the country. The documentary 5B (2018) shows the extraordinary actions that nurses and caregivers took in comforting, protecting, and caring for patients who had AIDS. Ward 5B revolutionized how AIDS patients were taken care of.

Preventing HIV Transmission and AIDS in China

Target zero: preventing HIV transmission (2018) tells the story of two HIV-positive pregnant women hoping to deliver HIV-negative babies, and two young men hoping to prevent contracting HIV using PrEP. AIDS in China. episode 4, Redemption (2015) looks at how the high AIDS death toll, coupled with the rising number of orphans and social discrimination has become a top concern in China.

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