April 22, 2019  (Web Review)

Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS

(2017) 67 min. DVD: $89: public libraries; $295: community colleges; $395: colleges & universities. Women Make Movies (www.wmm.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

There was a saying during the height of the AIDS epidemic, “Women don’t get AIDS. They just die from it.” While most accounts of the era focus on men, filmmaker Harriet Hirshorn, who joined ACT Up in 1989, here profiles five black women who have done their part to generate awareness and support. Katrina Haslip, who was HIV+, became an activist while incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where she co-founded AIDS Counseling and Education. Because governmental assistance in the 1980s drew from research into men with AIDS, women didn’t qualify, even though they experienced different symptoms. Haslip’s efforts helped to change the Centers for Disease Control’s definition of AIDS—although she didn’t live long enough to benefit. Jeanne Gapiya-Niyonzima, the Bujumbura, Burundi-based founder of National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS was galvanized by the HIV+ status of her infant son. Her physician told her that he would die, and that she should abort the baby she was carrying (during the procedure, they removed her uterus without telling her). Since the deaths of her husband and son, she has worked to make anti-retroviral medication easier to access. Lagos, Nigeria-based Morolake Odetoyinbo founded Positive Action for Treatment Access in the wake of her HIV+ diagnosis, which aims to make free treatment available throughout Africa. Gina Brown, a member of Positive Women’s Network, found out she was HIV+ after she became pregnant, which led her to become an advocate and speaker in New Orleans (Odetoyinbo and Brown gave birth to HIV-free babies). Also HIV+, Reverend Joyce Turner Keller provides counseling in Baton Rouge. In addition to these inspiring profiles, Hirshorn provides facts and figures that underscore the necessity of their work. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)