Wednesday, April 1, 2009

what the world needs now is another pedro zamora

No, I will not be watching the Pedro Zamora movie on MTV tonight. Frankly, the movie just won't do him justice. No film about his life could compare with the reality that he shared on the Real World San Francisco.

If anything good can come out of this movie, it is the collective realization that the world needs another Pedro Zamora.

AIDS and HIV look much different now than they did 15 years ago. Back then, you could tell that someone had AIDS just by looking at them. AZT was the preferred method of treatment. And the AIDS pandemic in Africa was just beginning. Now, you can't tell who has AIDS or HIV. There are countless treatments available, a heck of a lot better than AZT, that work in tandem to stop the proliferation of virus in the body. Nowadays people with AIDS live longer, unless you live in Africa. AIDS has completely and forever changed the African continent as the disease continues to spread.

The big difference between then and now is that people are far more complacent about the disease. You see, AIDS isn't so in-your-face now (Africa excluded). People go to see Rent now and the storyline is a total relic. They read And the Band Played On like a history text book. How can young people relate to an epidemic that once seemed frightening and unavoidable when they can't even see the epidemic now?

Back in the early 90s, like it or not, Pedro Zamora was the face of AIDS. He brought the disease down to a level that young people could understand. Here was a kid that looked like any other kid, but this kid was dying. Pedro's story itself probably prevented 1000s of HIV infections.  His presence on the public stage that is the Real World humanized the disease. At the very least, he showed people that, yes, AIDS can happen to you. At the very best, he taught tolerance and understanding is needed for those living with AIDS.

Right now, we have a Pedro Zamora, but few people know who she is because she's not on a reality TV show. But by her example, she too is humanizing the disease. Her name is Damaries. She is a young Puerto Rican woman living in Miami who is spreading a message--AIDS can happen to anyone. Damaries is living proof of that. Acting the part of a faithful partner, Damaries contracted the virus through her fiance at the time. Although he has since passed away, Damaries is healthy and sharing her story with others to show everyone that one can never be too careful when it comes to HIV. She is also doing her part to help HIV positive people gain acceptance within the Latino community. The PSA below airs on Univision (the video is in Spanish with English subtitles; there is an English version but I couldn't find it).

Unfortunately, Damaries doesn't have the same exposure Pedro had, so her story isn't as far-reaching as his. And it's incredibly unfortunate. Despite the changes the epidemic has gone through, Pedro and Damaries' message is still relevant and IMPORTANT. The truth is that people are still getting HIV. And the truth remains that there is still no cure for AIDS.

Prevention is the answer. Sadly, I don't think everyone is listening.


Zipcode said...

this is why your blog is so important!!! You get the message out!

You are awesome.

Generation Next said...

I went to a Pedro watching party with some of my Planned Parenthood folk (and others) and I thought of you. It was a good movie, and I think you should still watch it. I watched and loved him on The Real World, and I still learned new things and enjoyed it. There were lots of tears and meaningful silence in the audience at the end of the film.

Even though I (and you) do this kind of work every day, I find that things like this movie re-invigorate my desire to make a difference, to make noise.

instatick said...

I think you're so right about the complacency. I look at things like the Real World, things that in the beginning were different and neat and effective in getting out the word about the world's problems and struggles and now - it's all pretty and perfect. I'm not sure what's caused it, but America definitely seems to be hiding from the hurtful things more these days.

anOCgirl said...

zip: thanks for the compliment

gen next: if the film had been more of a documentary than the re-enactment of stuff we know happened, then i would've embraced it. i do think it's great that PPFA worked with MTV to develop a watcher's guide to the movie. maybe if i had posted the press release i received from MTV...well, it was basically all about how groundbreaking MTV was for having the first HIV+ person on TV. ummm, that's not what pedro was about.

instatick: you know, that's a v. good point you bring up. why the complacency? i think some of it can be attributed to NIMBY, but i don't think that's the root cause.