A city struggles with HIV/AIDS
Susan Koch opens her compelling, consciousness-raising documentary “The Other City” by posing the question: Which city has the highest HIV/AIDS rate? Port au Prince, Haiti; Washington, D.C.; or Dakar, Senegal? The answer is the American capital, where an estimated 3% of the population is infected. Throughout the film there are glimpses of the White House, the Capitol and other majestic landmarks, providing an ironic contrast to Koch’s gallery of individuals and organizations struggling to combat the long-running disease in the face of declining funding and “AIDS fatigue.”
HIV/AIDS may cross all ethnic, racial and class lines, but not surprisingly the hardest hit has been the city’s large African American community, followed by its burgeoning Latino population and its gay community. Experts hold that the longtime federal ban — only recently lifted — on needle exchange programs has been largely responsible for HIV/AIDS ravaging the black community.
Among those profiled are J’Mia Edwards, an HIV-positive single mother of three small children who is given notice that funding for her apartment will soon end, plunging her into a bureaucratic nightmare in her desperate search for new housing. Jimmy is a 35-year-old gay white male, infected at age 17, and now taken by his family to die in a hospice that is itself facing a substantial loss of funding.
Jose Ramirez devotes his time to passing out condoms and preaching safe sex practices to young Latinos; Ron Daniels created a needle exchange program. A group of about two dozen African Amercan ex-cons with HIV/ AIDS formed the Courage to Change organization and reach out to the community. All these individuals and organizations are deeply affecting in their attempt to better themselves and society against daunting odds.
— Kevin Thomas
“The Other City.” MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills.
“Picture Me.” MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. Playing at the Sunset 5, West Hollywood.