Positive Youth is a one hour television documentary which follows four HIV+ positive youth (late teens to 27) in four different N. American cities in Cinema vérité style. Growing up in the 1980s and 90s we were hammered with terrifying statistics of HIV/AIDS. Thirty years in, we are still learning. What education do youth receive now and why is the youth transmission rate still the highest? We have seen retrospective documentaries on the AIDS crisis and interviews with survivors but what about the positive youth of today? We aim to feature accessible and inspirational individuals and the often-rocky road that they’ve traveled to get here. Each of the four subjects have been selected to create a dynamic perspective on the reality of living positive today. Medical and psychological experts weigh in to provide up-to-date facts and a historical context to the reality of living positively. In life we are inherently afraid of the unknown: of death. Our film will show this in action by exploring the social stigma these young people must rise above each day. The main conflict lies with our audience. We intend to have our subjects, and our audience answer difficult questions about their own level of discrimination when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Ultimately we want the audience to feel educated with a new sense of empathy and understanding for positive people. Vancouver, Toronto, Phoenix, New York, Victoria – straight 18-year-old First Nations woman, gay 25-year-old white urbanite, 23-year-old jet-setting entertainer, black 22-year-old man searching for work and health insurance. HIV does not discriminate. For the first time, young positive people open their homes and hearts to us – offering a no holds barred access into their lives. (Produzione)
As an HIV Educator at Youth Services BUreau working within a youth-focused context, I believe that the film Positive Youth from Border2Border entertainment tells an extremely important story. Four youth from diverse backgrounds who are either infected with or affected by HIV candidly discuss their experiences both with the virus and the stigma attached to the virus. Interspersed with these gripping first-hand stories, we hear from medical professionals and counselors who work with HIV positive people who contextualize these individual stories within the framework of larger population trends. The film provides the opportunity to connect a human face to the disease and for youth, a population with a growing incidence of new diagnoses of HIV, to contribute their experience and voices to the ongoing dialogue.
The film was balanced in providing the message that HIV is a manageable, chronic illness but that people should make choices to reduce their risks, when possible. It also did an excellent job of demonstrating the challenges of dating when living with HIV and showcased the touching and courageous stories of several couples of differing HIV statuses who chose love over fear.
I will continue to use this film in my educational work to create dialogue around HIV with youth populations, and I highly recommend the film to people who might be considering it. This story needs to be heard! Alisa McClain – Youth Services Burea of Ottawa (Alisa McClain, Imdb)
Positive Youth was a great documentary that presented very interpersonal stories about young adults that are infected or affected by HIV. It was very educational, very emotional, and very inspiring to see the young people in this movie that have this virus and were still so positive about life, and were not letting HIV define them or prevent them from going after their dreams and falling in love. Speaking of falling in love, the documentary did a fantastic job displaying the lifestyle of a HIV youth in perspectives to dating which one would think would extremely difficult. However, the film shed an entirely different light on the issue and was really inspiring to see open-minded people falling in love with the person and not being scared away from their romantic desires because of HIV.
I give this film an “A” overall because it was very eye opening, and really inspiring to see such positive people in what many would consider to be grim circumstances. I had wished this film divulged the parents reactions when they found out their child was HIV positive, because the film discussed how difficult it was on the parents but there were no parent testimonials in the film. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to see this movie at the Phoenix Film Festival. There were numerous people in the film in attendance and there was a question and answer segment after the film which really added to the experience and the amazingness to this film. I wish everyone would see this film, because it would help eliminate the negative stigma that follows HIV. (Patrick Gibbs, Imdb)
INTERVISTA AL REGISTA (by Joanne, hglcf.org)
What inspired you to make this documentary?
I was in New York meeting with MTV/LOGO and we were throwing around ideas – when the subject of doing a documentary on HIV+ youth surfaced it scared me. That’s also how I knew it was a good idea. I knew it would not be an easy film to make in terms of finding subjects willing to share their life and struggles living with a chronic illness that holds so much stigma in our society. The most dramatic rise in new transmissions is
in our youth – why? It’s time we re-examine the illness and our ideas surrounding it.
What was your process for choosing individuals to follow in this documentary?
The face of HIV is the human face. It does not discriminate. It was important to me that I show subjects from different socio-economic backgrounds, a mix of ethnicities and sexuality. It was not easy to find my subjects – I had a lot of people say no which is understandable. Often positive people face so much stigma within their workplace, families, friends, potential relationships and society at large that the thought of then opening their lives to be in forty-five million homes across the USA is scary to say the least. Slowly and surely I found brave young people willing to share and the stories are very powerful.
What separates your film from other HIV related documentaries?
We’ve seen a lot of important retrospective films on HIV/AIDS. I wanted to do something different and so focusing on the population that is most at risk today and yet facing a very different disease than the epidemic of the last thirty years made sense. HIV is now a chronic illness meaning that it is manageable with treatment and the likelihood is that a positive person will live a long and healthy life comparable to a negative person aside from the burden of meds and facing the emotional and psychological stress of discrimination.
Do you think it’s harder for people to deal with HIV today than before?
I think overall it’s easier for positive people now because of the amazing advances in science, medicine and our understanding of how HIV works within our bodies. We’ve had a shift in the first world from a fear of dying to fear of segregation and potential to find love. In the end that’s the greatest sadness I witnessed in making the film – the fear these young people had of never finding someone who would accept and love them regardless of their HIV+ status.
Do you think this film will help others better understand the HIV positive youth of today?
In the film we discuss what it felt like to get the positive diagnosis, the fear of disclosure, trying to make sense of all the information, building support systems, advocacy, and hope for the future. Similar to the movement for racial, gender or sexuality equality – the first step is removing fear and that most often comes in the form of education. The four stars in the film bare their hearts and souls. They offer themselves as accessible and relatable and I hope that audiences will be able to empathize, to gain a greater understanding and to start seeing the human faces and not just the illness.
What can people do to help and support HIV positive youth?
I think the most important thing we can do right now is get ourselves up to date with sex education and the current state of HIV as individuals. Then the individual can begin to marshal and politely correct her/his peers when a stigmatizing comment comes up. That’s really step one. We need to embrace positive people in our society and stop seeing them as fearful or the other. That’s where the healing really begins for everyone. I think we also need to listen to our youth and find out where we have failed them in terms of safe sex education. How do we ‘speak’ to them through education more affectively?