As a part of LGBT Health Month, on Thursday, March 22 we screened We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco at the Little Theatre on East Avenue. The screening was free and open to the public, and was followed by a panel discussion consisting of Stanley Byrd of the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital, Dr. Michael Keefer of the Rochester Victory Alliance, and Dr. Bill Valenti and Richard Fowler of AIDS Care, and facilitated by our own Erik Libey, also of AIDS Care.
I thought the film was excellent, and the panel was very knowledgeable about how the early HIV epidemic affected the Rochester gay community and how it banded together to take care of its own during that time. The panelists also spoke about what current measures are being taken locally to help prevent the spread of HIV, such as vaccine trials, and potential long term, permanent treatment options for HIV positive individuals.
Overall, I thought the film was a really well done and poignant history of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The film was very accessible as well; I sensed that it could reach a much broader audience than just the LGBT community and people who had lived through the AIDS years. What affected me the most about this film was how emotional it made me. As someone who is too young to remember the fear that anyone who was alive during the AIDS epidemic experienced, I was shocked by the sense of unknown contagion the survivors described, and the terrible stigma and civil rights abuses they experienced because of it.
The film had a local tie too, as one of the men interviewed in it was originally from our neighboring Buffalo, NY before he headed to San Francisco in the 1970s. I myself really enjoy documentaries, and thought this was one was wonderful.
Have you seen We Were Here? What did you think?