'Nothing Without Us': Documentary Highlights Heroism of Women Fighting HIV/AIDS

1 December 2017

Shedding light on the activism of women living with the viruses, the film began to take shape in the early 2000s while Harriet Hirshorn, the movie's producer and director, was living in France. She worked with a researcher doing a feasibility study on the economic impact of making HIV/AIDS treatment available in Africa. During her travels, she observed a trend: The individuals who were the most active around access to treatment, legal aid, support groups, finding services, and care were women.

"Many were young mothers; widows. They were living in HIV; involved in mother-to-child transmission studies,” Hirshorn said to NBC News during an interview in a coffee shop on New York City's Lower East Side. "I realized that this was something that was not visible at all. People weren't talking about it in the media."

Hirshorn, who has done work around social justice issues for years, interviewed 30 women "with very disparate stories" for the film before narrowing that number down to five.

The five women are African and Black American. Hirshorn said the selection was not intentional but occurred through a combination of factors. One is the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in certain populations such as in Nigeria and black women in southern United States. These are two regions where the viruses are on the rise for various reasons including stigmatization, ineffective abstinence education, and conspiracies of silence. Another factor, Hirshorn said, was her desire to "focus on people who struck me as amazing in some way."

She wants people to walk away from the film knowing there is hope.

Read the full article online here.