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“The Other City”: The Beltway’s Legacy of “Indifference”

Over the weekend I moderated a panel at Los Angeles’ Outfest about “The Other City,” a documentary from filmmaker Susan Koch that follows the lives of a handful of D.C residents with HIV/AIDS as they struggle to make ends meet. Koch was intrigued by the idea of a whole other city that exists in the Beltway yet seldom gets any attention, even when the rate of HIV infection is at 3%, or at epidemic proportions.

The project, which recently screened at the Newseum, is especially timely given the release of President Obama’s National AIDS Strategy on Tuesday. Among the panelists was Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who was especially dubious of the White House plan. I am paraphrasing here, but Weinstein said that you have to go back to Ronald Reagan to find an administration more “indifferent” to the AIDS crisis. He noted that it’s taken 15 months for the administration to come up with a strategy, and as Karen Ocamb points out in LGBT POV, his org is ready to call the plan a “day late and a dollar short.”

“There is no funding, no ‘how to,’ no real leadership,” Weinstein says. Among other things, he points out a lack of administration support for stimulus funds to provide HIV/AIDS medications to some 2,200 Americans on a waiting list for such drugs.

While the movie may call more attention to the crisis within miles of the White House (such officials as Melody Barnes attended the D.C. screening), Weinstein doubts that real action will come unless there is more activism in the streets. And in the meantime, he has a new ad campaign called “Who’s Better on AIDS?” comparing the progress under Obama and George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, along with other orgs, placed ads in Variety and other publications on Monday calling on ABC and “The View” to apologize for comments made by D.L. Hughley in which he appeared to blame the spread of AIDS in the African-American community on women having sex with bisexual men.

The ad says: “The Centers for Disease Control has publicly disproven this myth.
And since June 22, thousands of people have written to ABC, asking that “The View” provide correct information to viewers. Unfortunately, those requests have been greeted with silence from both
ABC and “The View.” When ‘The View’ talks about these
kinds of issues, people listen. And there’s a responsibility that comes
with that.”

Here’s the trailer for “The Other City,” which will be rolled out in theaters this fall.

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