On Nov. 6, the Center for Global Education, the Division of Global Cultures, and Anthropology professor Dr. Linda Winkler presented “Wilhemina’s War,” the third movie of their Cultural Film Series. This edition of the series shined light on the often undiscussed topic of heterosexually transmitted HIV/AIDS in black women, particularly in South Carolina.
“I think I’ve picked this one because it was about a cultural community that many students here at Wilkes wouldn’t necessarily have been exposed to, in the Carolinas,” explained Dr. Linda Winkler. “It discusses the topic that we often don’t discuss, which is HIV/AIDS in the U.S., in a way that is keenly personal.”
“In 2009, federal officials cited AIDS as the leading cause of death among black women,” narrated Crystal Johnson in the film, setting the tone of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the south.
The documentary discussed the role of mass incarceration of black men in the transmission of the virus, statistics dealing with positive tests among black women and the general population, and the personal stories associated.
The cameras followed the stigma that arose regarding the virus and the scarce resources available to those with HIV/AIDS, specifically within Wilhemina’s family.
“It was really eye opening,” said Dr. Linda Paul, associate professor of philosophy, when asked about the film.
“It’s always interesting to see the actual people and how it affects their lives rather just hearing statistics about things,” elaborated Paul. “Statistics are important for the overall view, but the personal touch always gives you a different perspective.”
Wilhemina, a grandmother from South Carolina who took care of her daughter and granddaughter after they contracted HIV, is the focus and the protagonist of the film. She would make sure they get to their doctor appointments and make sure they took all their medicine. Her daughter Toni contracted HIV during extensive drug use and then passed it onto her newborn daughter, Dayshal, when she gave birth.
Dayshal grew up with the social stigma and lack of resources for HIV. The stigma resulted from lack of knowledge about the virus and the belief that it was a more white, homosexual disease rather than black, heterosexual epidemic.
At the time the movie was being produced, then South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley fought against the $11 billion and opportunity for 140,000 new jobs the Affordable Care Act would grant the state to help combat lack of help for HIV/AIDS in the communities.
After the offer from the Affordable Care Act was declined, the film continued to focus on the communal efforts in South Carolina to diagnose, treat, educate, and prevent HIV/AIDS in an area that was blind to it.
Different HIV/AIDS awareness groups like Positive Voices, of South Carolina, mobilized efforts to change the future of HIV/AIDS in the south to become more of an understanding and supporting environment for those tested positive for the disease.
“We have HIV,” stated Dayshal proudly in the film, “HIV don’t have us.”