“I walked the avenue, 'til my legs felt like stone,
I heard the voices of friends, vanished and gone” —
This song from the 1993 Hollywood hit movie “Philadelphia” brought Oscars to Bruce Springsteen, who has never written a soundtrack for a motion picture before, and to Tom Hanks, who played Andrew Beckett – a gay lawyer battling with AIDS and fighting in court against the prejudice of his employers.
Beckett lost his job when his bosses found out that he was HIV-positive, so he hired a homophobic lawyer played by Denzel Washington to protect his rights in court.
Intense and emotional, “Philadelphia” sparked a countrywide discussion in the U.S. about the rights of HIV/AIDS patients.
Ed Saxon, the producer of “Philadelphia”, said in his interview to E! channel that the film tackled two controversial topics:
“I think the main reason we wanted to make it was that we felt it was one of the most dramatic things happening in society today – both the AIDS epidemic and discrimination against gay Americans, which is the few kinds of discrimination that seemed to be openly accepted in a lot of places in this country.”
You may wonder whether anything has changed over the more than 2 decades since the Oscar-winning film “Philadelphia”, which was by the way based on a true story, came out. Well, apparently, not much.
Currently the rights of HIV/AIDS patients are protected by numerous laws in the US and other countries. Any kind of discrimination against these patients, including the denial of health care and a right to be employed, is illegal.
Nevertheless, in many cases, not only those who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, but sometimes even people who are merely rumored to have the virus – were fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes or denied proper health care.
Jack Glaser, a man who contracted the virus from his mother in utero, is a well-known HIV/AIDS activist. For 30 years he’s been living a healthy life, while undergoing antiretroviral therapy. In his interview to Larry King Now, Jack said that the fear is still there.
“I would say the stigma has grown in a lot of respects. The nature of this issue is being a fear-based stigma. People have been stigmatized in a lot of ways – from intravenous drug users to the homosexual community, and at the end of the day I don’t think that fear has not gone away.”
The Joint United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS named stigma and discrimination neglected issues in most national responses to HIV. The UN officials say it’s necessary to foster respect for people living with the virus through education and community programs.
And as the search for the cure continues, millions of HIV/AIDS patients are waiting not only for that life-saving magic pill, but also for more compassion and understanding of their problems.