Facts & Resources
Meet the Filmmakers
Documentary for Health & Social Justice
"We need to help our young girls set goals.Help them negotiate condom usage. Help them be stronger. Give them theencouragement to say, "this is my body and I have a choice." -FilmParticipant
LIVING POSITIVE is a 15-minute film told through the words and stories of five women inNew Orleans who share the challenges and triumphs of living with HIV.Far from stopping at individual stories, the film explores the socialforces underlying the disease-including racism, poverty, lack ofinformation about HIV, and the stigma associated with the disease.
Thewomen in LIVING POSITIVE have faced many struggles, including substanceabuse, sex work, mental health issues, and sometimes even rejection bytheir families, friends and community. A number of them continue tocontend with the physical and psychological aftermath of Katrina. Butthese women are also survivors, and LIVING POSITIVE highlights theirstrengths and their many accomplishments. We hear how social networksmade up of family, friends, and community-based organizations sustainthem and help them grow. We learn about the powerful role of religionand spirituality in their lives. We see how working with other HIVpositive women has brought a sense of meaning and fulfillment to theirlives. Ultimately, the film shows how being HIV positive has been atransformative experience for these women.
Use the accompanying Discussion Guidebelow to help you engage your family and friends, your class, or yourcommunity in a discussion about the impact of HIV on women and theunderlying reasons that HIV disproportionately affects African Americanwomen.
This discussion guide provides questions to help you engage your family and friends, your class, or your community in a discussion about the impact of HIV on women and the underlying reasons that HIV disproportionately affects African American women.
- The lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS is fueling the epidemic.
- The stigmatization of HIV positive people is still pervasive and negatively affects both mental and physical health.
- Social support networks and self-empowerment are important factors improving the health status of HIV positive women.
- Although Gina and the other women in the film are HIV positive, you wouldn't necessarily know it by looking at them. What do you think are some of the things keeping these women healthy and full of life?
- Cynthia, Gina, and others thought they were going to die when they found out they had contracted HIV, and some people still see HIV/AIDS as a fatal disease.
However, others also now perceive it as a condition that-with the proper
treatment-is chronic, manageable, and for this reason not so worrisome. Does the truth lie in between these two extremes and if so can you describe where?
- What some ways that you can contract HIV? What are ways that you do not contract HIV? What are some important methods of HIV prevention?
- Cynthia and Jaivanique speak compellingly about how friends and relatives feared "catching HIV" from casual contact with them.
- Why do you think the misconceptions about HIV transmission are still so pervasive?
- What should be done about this?
- Are any of the same misconceptions common in your community?
- African American women have a disproportionately high risk of contracting HIV. (According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women experience a rate of HIV diagnoses 23 times greater than white women.) How do you think racism might play a role in these higher rates of diagnosis?
- Cynthia and some of the other women in LIVING POSITIVE have a past that
includes substance abuse and/or sex work. What are some underlying reasons that might lead women in these directions? What might be some solutions?
- The film discusses methods of HIV prevention-such as HIV/AIDS education and the use of condoms-that have to do with individual behavior. But what are some
prevention methods that might address the root causes of increasing HIV rates in the African American community? Try to address racism and poverty.
- How might gender play a role in the fact that women of color now face a
disproportionate risk of HIV infection?
- Jacquie talks about the importance of her church in her life, and most of the other women mention family members, friends, or organizations that have stood by them despite their HIV status. Can you describe the role of such support networks in the physical and mental health of HIV positive women?
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Belle Reve, New Orleans
(504) 942-2670; (504) 945-9455
Camp ACE, of St. John #5 Faith Church
Centers for Disease Control (2007, June). HIV/AIDS among African Americans.
Retrieved 9/30/07 from www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/aa/resources/factsheets/aa.htm
Centers for Disease Control (2006, April). HIV/AIDS among women. Retrieved 9/30/07
Family Advocacy, Care and Education Services (FACES)
National AIDS Fund
- The Well Project www.thewellproject.org
- HIV InSite http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/
- The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource www.thebody.com/
LIVING POSITIVE: Meet the Filmmakers
Deborah Craig, Ryan Hildebrant, Anthony Massung & Brett Hickman
Deborahhas an eclectic background in history, writing, public health, music,and the visual arts. She received a B.A. in American History fromColumbia University, has been a jazz drummer and photographer since herteens, and spent many years in the software industry, writing over adozen books on various software applications. She joined the Masters inPublic Health program at San Francisco State University in the fall of2006. Besides completing the required coursework, she is takingdocumentary film classes to search for ways in which the arts can beused to enhance awareness about public health issues. Her film "The Verde Garde: Growing a Healthy Community," came out in the Spring of 2007 and was featured in the San Francisco State Film Finals.
Ryan has had a lifelong interest in all forms of media. He holds anAssociates of Science degree in video production and, prior to comingto San Francisco State University, had two years of professional workexperience on local documentaries, educational programming, and videoproduction for the web in his home city of San Diego, California. Hisprimary production interests are in lighting and camera, although he isexperienced in post production and sound as well. Ryan will graduatefrom San Francisco State University with his Bachelors of Arts inCinema Production in May of 2008.
Anthonyis a narrative filmmaker and a student at San Francisco StateUniversity. He has an intense passion for moviemaking and has beenworking with film and video for over five years. Having gotten intofilmmaking because he wants to contribute to positive social change,Anthony recently joined Ryan Hildebrant and Deborah Craig to create adocumentary about HIV positive women in New Orleans. Anthony will begraduating with a BA in Cinema in May of 2008.
When he was a young boy, it was common to see Brett carrying his father'slarge shoulder-mounted VHS camera, making small films with anyone braveenough on the cul-de-sac where he lived. Eventually he attended SanFrancisco State University, with a major in Cinema. There Brett tookpart in several student films, including a short documentary entitled The Verde Garden: Growing a Healthy Community,which was featured in the San Francisco State Film Finals and prompteda substantial United Way grant to the Verde Garden. Brett graduatedfrom San Francisco State University in May of 2007. He now lives inIrvine California, where he has harnessed his newfound passion fordocumentary style filmmaking, and is currently active as a freelancecamera operator on several projects. Brett was asked to accompany theNew Orleans group on their production as a second camera op, and isvery honored to be a part of this new documentary, Living Positive.
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The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute