Planned Parenthood of Louisiana hosted a screening of deepsouth last night in honor of World AIDS Day. Filmmaker Lisa Biagiotti joined the panel after the screening and shared that it was the startling statistics of HIV/AIDS in the south, combined with the SILENCE about this reality – in stark contrast to the national story that HIV/AIDS is “under control” – that drew her to create deepsouth. As Elizabeth Pandolfi writes in her review of the film:
Unlike the rest of the nation, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South has not been controlled and conquered. Instead, it’s rampant and largely invisible. Deaths from HIV/AIDS are 50 percent higher than in the rest of the country. The South also has the highest rate of incarceration, the highest number of uninsured people, the highest rate of STD infection, the highest rate of poverty — and the list goes on. Those Southerners who are HIV positive are still mired in many of the same problems that patients faced during the early years of the disease, from discrimination to lack of access to care.
Born and raised in the southland, I often respond to news like this with a Gina Forsyth song:
Oh, I love it and I hate it
Every now and then berate it
Oh, the sweet and sunny south where I was born
And yet I know the South is simply the identified patient in the United States - where every place is suffering from an illness greater than HIV/AIDS, an illness endemic to the structure of this nation from its creation. The dis-ease of racism.
Panelist Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With A Vision,went directly to the soul of the matter when asked what can be done to address HIV/AIDS in the South. Address racism. Address poverty. Address homelessness. Address food access and healthcare access and daycare options. Address the internalized racial inferiority and internalized racial superiority that destroys lives.
Beloveds, in this interdependent web of all existence, nothing exists outside of relationship.
Let us shine the light of our faith on these connections. Let us address the root illnesses of our nation – structural racism, sexism, heterosexism – every –ism that privileges anyone and demeans another for the superiority of a few. If we spend our lives addressing only the symptoms, the next generation will suffer even more from this dis-ease.
Let the SILENCE be broken by a multitude of voices rising up with truths, with stories that remind us we are all in this together – and together, we can heal. Only together can we heal.