From New York to Nigeria
From Burundi to the American South
How HIV-positive women on two continents
have spent 30 years fighting for treatment,
survival—and a place at the table
Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS
A Film by Harriet Hirshorn
From New York to Nigeria
From Burundi to the American South
How HIV-positive women on two continents have spent 30 years fighting for treatment, survival—and a place at the table
ABOUT THE FILM
Nothing Without Us is the first and only documentary telling the story of the inspiring women at the forefront of the global AIDS movement. Combining archival footage and interviews with female activists, scientists and scholars in the US and Africa, “Nothing Without Us: The Women who Will End AIDS” reveals how women not only shaped grassroots groups like ACT-UP in the U.S., but have also played essential roles in HIV prevention and the treatment access movement throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The film explores the unaddressed dynamics that keep women around the world at risk of HIV, while introducing the remarkable women who have the answers to ending this 30-year old pandemic.
This film is funded by the Ford Foundation with generous donations from the MAC AIDS Fund and Open Society Institutes.
New York, NY
Katrina Haslip was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and while in prison, was diagnosed with HIV. Appalled by the discrimination and mistreatment of her fellow inmates living with HIV/AIDS, she and other inmates, including Kathy Boudin and Judy Clark founded ACE (AIDS Counseling and Education), creating a powerful group of peer educators and advocates. Once released, Katrina continued her fight against stigma and discrimination by mobilizing to end women’s invisibility because their symptoms were not included in the CDC definition of HIV. She was a defendant in the ground-breaking lawsuit against the Federal Government challenging women’s exclusion. She continued her activism until she died in 1992, just weeks before the CDC definition changed to include women with HIV which provided women access to lifesaving treatment and support.
Jeanne Gapiya tested positive for HIV in Burundi in 1987 when pregnant with her second child. Her doctor told her that because of her sero-status she had to have an abortion—and then removed her uterus without consulting her. After hearing a sermon in the National Cathedral describing people with HIV as sinners, Jeanne became the first person in Burundi to publicly and without shame declare herself HIV-positive. She discovered she was not alone and in the absence of meaningful HIV/AIDS care, she launched a national movement to provide access to treatment and education.
She is the president of ANSS (Association Nationale de Seropositifs) the only organization in the country that was serving HIV+ Burundians. Through the ANSS she founded a medical clinic, smuggled essential anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) into the country, and successfully pressured her government into finally providing these treatments free of charge to its citizens.
New Orleans, LA
Gina Brown came of age in the shadow of sexual and physical violence and contracted HIV from the father of her two children. Diagnosed in 1992 while pregnant, she’s told “You have AIDS and you’re gonna die.” Her first thought was suicide but she enrolled in an early pre-natal preventative study. Her daughter Jamanii, was born HIV-negative and Gina began her own journey of rebirth as an HIV activist.
Positive for two decades, Gina has worked in the HIV field for over a dozen years and has become a valued advocate and speaker. She has made it her life’s mission to help the broader community gain a higher level of health literacy and to bring to light the connection between HIV and intimate partner violence.
‘Rolake Odetoyinbo is a prominent voice in the international fight against HIV/AIDS. She comes from the country that bears the world’s second-largest burden of HIV. Approximately 3.5 million Nigerians are, like ‘Rolake, living with the virus—and most of them are untreated, ashamed and afraid. After she learned that she had contracted HIV from her husband, she returned to her parents’ home. There she reconnected with a college friend Omololu Falobi, a prominent journalist, and began to transform herself from a shy housewife to a bold, charismatic media figure. She mobilized through a column in the biggest selling newspaper in the country and her own TV show to challenge the rampant stigma and discrimination against HIV positive people in Nigeria. She fights for treatment access and HIV literacy for all with an emphasis on the empowerment of women and girls.
Dr. Joyce Turner Keller
Baton Rouge, LA
Joyce is a mother, grandmother and HIV/AIDS activist who is HIV-positive and the founder and president of Aspirations, which addresses the issue of HIV/AIDS through outreach efforts at health fairs, homeless shelters, churches, schools, colleges and universities, vocational centers and women and children abuse centers. Living in one of the cities with the highest rate of new HIV infections, Joyce provides testing, education and counseling and regularly hosts a support group called, Straight Talk at the Kitchen Table, “celebrating those living with HIV/AIDS, remembering those that lost the battle.”
Mary Bowman is a 24-year-old spoken word artist from Washington who was born with HIV. As a child, the hospital became her second home and her sero-status was hard to share with her classmates and teachers. Determined to make a difference, Mary started an organization, Purpose Over Entertainment (P.O.E.T.) that uses social media, and the visual and performing arts to foster conversations that confront the stigmas that surround HIV/AIDS. Honoring her mother and all the women who died of AIDS, the “Dandelions” of the world, she spreads a message of hope and challenges her own generation.
New York, NY
Sonia Rastogi received her diagnosis in the age of ARVs (anti-retroviral treatments.) Although an HIV diagnosis was no longer the death sentence that it once was, Sonia, who was in her early twenties, was devastated by the news. Slowly, she started seeking out organizations who could provide support, community and information—and there, she found her life’s work.
Sonia was the Advocacy Coordinator with Positive Women’s Network/U.S. and continues to be one of its most articulate and impassioned spokespersons. She supports and trains women living with HIV across the country in advocacy skills and media/communications, so that they have the tools to speak up, organize and take action on behalf of themselves and others.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Rose Dossou was a participant in an early AZT versus placebo trial, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), in Abidjan in the mid-1990s. This study sought to further “prove” what was already known in the West: that taking AZT while pregnant could result in an HIV-negative baby. Rose and the other Ivoirian women recruited for the study were not informed of the power of AZT to keep their babies healthy, but discovered the truth only after the trial had begun. And none of them knew who was taking the drug and who was taking the placebo. Each woman “prayed that she was taking the real thing.”
At the study’s end, Rose’s son was born with HIV; and this is how she learned she had been given the placebo.
Desperate to take care of themselves and their children, Rose and the other placebo recipients began holding support group meetings at the research site. They prodded the research team for educational materials and information about HIV medicines available in their country—and their group became AMEPOUH, one of the first organizations on the African continent to deliver services to HIV+ women.
Dazon Dixon Diallo
Dazon Dixon Diallo is the founder and president of SisterLove, a non-profit organization in Atlanta, GA that serves and supports women living with HIV and their families. A Southerner who possesses a Masters in Public Health, she has a powerful understanding of how race, class, gender and sexuality intersect with history, politics, and health. She points out that it could have easily been foreseen that HIV and AIDS would come to plague communities of color within the United States, given the economic conditions and social pressures under which those communities struggle. And communities of color in the South, where Dazon lives and works, have been hit harder than anyone else in America by HIV/AIDS.
Dazon argues that HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, policy, and education must take into account the health and needs and roles and realities of all women. And that it will take the empowerment and leadership of women to ensure that happens. “It will be women who close the door on this epidemic,” Dazon says. “I am not confused about that, at all.”
Laurie Dill, MD
Dr. Laurie Dill is the Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama (MAO). A native of Alabama, her undergraduate degree is from Vanderbilt University, and she attended medical school and residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is certified as an HIV Specialist by the American Academy of HIV Medicine. She has been treating HIV patients with MAO since 1996, and has been the Medical Director since 2006. She is on the Governor of Alabama’s Commission on HIV for Children, Youth and Adults. She has co-authored two studies on Domestic Violence in Primary Care settings.
New York, NY
Terry McGovern founded the HIV Law Project in 1989 where she served as its executive director until 1999. Ms. She successfully litigated numerous cases against federal, state and local governments including the groundbreaking S.P. v. Sullivan, which forced the Social Security Administration to expand HIV-related disability criteria so that women and low income individuals could qualify for Medicaid and social security, and T.N. v. FDA, which eliminated a 1977 FDA guideline restricting the participation of women in clinical trials.As a member of the National Task Force on the Development of HIV/AIDS Drugs, she authored the 2001 federal regulation authorizing the FDA to halt any clinical trial for a life threatening disease that excludes women. In 2001, she was named director of the Women’s Health and Human Rights Advocacy Project, at Columbia’s Mailman School, whose goal is to improve the reproductive and overall healthcare of low- income women. Terry has published extensively and testified numerous times before Congress and other policymaking entities.
Nothing Without Us is the first and only documentary telling the story of the inspiring women at the forefront of the global AIDS movement. Combining archival footage and interviews with female activists, scientists and scholars in the US and Africa, “Nothing Without Us: The Women who Will End AIDS” reveals how women not only shaped grassroots groups like ACT-UP in the U.S., but have also played essential roles in HIV prevention and the treatment access movement throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The film explores the unaddressed dynamics that keep women around the world at risk of HIV, while introducing the remarkable women who have the answers to ending this 30-year old pandemic. Read more here.
Harriet Hirshorn has been covering HIV in the US and Africa for the last ten years. Among several short films about HIV, Our Lives Are In Our Hands was exhibited in a video installation in the Pompidou Center’s Main Hall in Paris. Hirshorn has produced several videos about HIV/AIDS and women in Africa for The New York Times. She has also produced and directed two documentary films about the struggle for democracy and human rights in Haiti: The Disappearance of TiSoeur: Haiti after Duvalier and Pote Mak Sonje (Whoever Bears the Scar Remembers): The Raboteau Trial.