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 Documentary examines escalating AIDS epidemic in nationís capital


Photo courtesy of Cabin Films/Jonah Koch
J'mia Edwards, a young mother living with AIDS, faces a 2-3 year wait for housing.

Film review of 'The Other City'

By Kam Williams / Critic

(Sept. 17, 2010) — Which of these countries’ capitals has the highest AIDS rate, Haiti, Senegal or the United States of America? You might be surprised to learn that the answer is Washington, D.C., where more than 3 percent of the population is HIV-positive. In fact, D.C. is the city with the highest infection rate in the U.S. where the disease is now also the leading cause of death among young black women.

Sadly, as AIDS has become increasingly thought of as primarily affecting African-American females, it has slowly slipped under the radar, no longer enjoying widespread attention as an urgent cause célèbre deserving of charity benefits, public service announcements and the like. For this reason, billionaire Sheila Johnson decided to produce "The Other City," a documentary directed by Susan Koch which not only cites the scary statistics but puts a face on the epidemic, a few faces, actually.

What’s the explanation for the escalating transmission of the contagious condition among sisters? The picture points to a variety of factors, intravenous drug use and unprotected sex with brothers on the down low, especially ex-cons, given that parolees are six times as likely to have the virus as the general population.

Typical among the subjects of this heartbreaking exposé is 28-year-old J’mia Edwards, a single mom with HIV who’s not only dealing with illness, but struggling to keep a roof over the heads of herself and her three children, all without any support. After being evicted from their apartment, the family has to make do at a shelter, where they wait patiently for a spot in a government housing project to open up.

Apparently, just finding a place to live is huge problem for AIDS patients in D.C., where they often find themselves treated like outcasts, socially. An exasperated Dr. David Hilfiker sums up this aspect of the crisis when he matter-of-factly states that "AIDS is moving from the gay community to the poor community, and the homeless need a place to die.” That sentiment is only echoed soon thereafter by a frustrated nurse’s aide named Joanie who laments aloud that, “People don’t have a place to die.” To put it simply, there aren’t enough beds to care for the folks who are falling like flies.

Excellent (****)


Running time: 90 Minutes

Studio: Cabin Films

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