December 1st marked the 21st Annual World AIDS Day. Life for those diagnosed with the virus has changed tremendously since the first case or AIDS was reported in 1981. Then, a diagnosis had vastly different ramifications than today.
Yet with over 33.4 million people around the globe infected with the virus, and no cure, the impact of HIV is no less overwhelming.
Beth Jones and Nicky Lankester have directed a one-hour documentary, Love in a Time of HIV, premiering on Showtime and repeating throughout the month of December. The film explores three separate histories. As Jones wrote me via e-mail, "We wanted to look at the subject of HIV/AIDS in the light of people living with it, rather than dying from it." After doing extensive research on the subject, they came up with numerous powerful narratives. The final choice was predicated not only upon the individual accounts, but also on the willingness of the subjects to open their lives to the cinéma vérité access that was needed.
The profiles are set in New York City, South Africa, and London. The heartbeat of each locale is captured through the cinematography and exterior shots. As Jones said, "The city in which someone lives can't help but be a character in their own personal story. We wanted to show what their lives are like on a daily basis, and the place in which they live is a huge part of that."
Susan and Christina Rodriguez, mother and daughter, are featured in the first segment. They are two of the 100,000 people living in New York City with HIV. Christina, 16, was born with HIV and was diagnosed when she was 3. In 1995, when her mother tested positive, 70,000 people in New York City had died from the disease.