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Recent Segment on The View Undermines HIV/AIDS Awareness

Wednesday Oct 14, 2015

By Nadine C. Licostie

What a difference a generation makes. In 1987, Whoopi Goldberg, who later became a regular co-host on "The View," stood next to AIDS activists demanding the end of stigma and a chance at decent medical treatment for those affected with HIV/AIDS. Flash forward nearly 30 years, and "View" co-hosts Candace Cameron Bure and and Raven-Symoné prove they have a lot to learn from their elders.
 
Candace Cameron Bure and Raven-Symoné's recent interview with Danny Pintauro on ABC's "The View" was beyond troubling, it was pretty appalling. Pintauro, a former child star on "Who's the Boss," had revealed a week prior that he is HIV-positive, and explained the factors that led him to wait 12 years before disclosing his diagnosis. He also discussed his past use of crystal meth and its impact.

Instead of using "The View's" platform to educate the American public about these vital health topics, the hosts chose to interrogate Pintauro with offensive and inappropriate questions, even asking his husband, who was sitting in the audience, about the couple's sex life.
 
"Do you take responsibility for your actions, for being promiscuous, going into a lifestyle of having heightened sex because of the meth that you were using?" Bure asked.  Raven-Symoné later queried: "I have a question for your husband. Please tell me if this is too personal... you guys have been married for 3 and a half years... Do you guys have protected or unprotected sex?"
 
To his credit, Pintauro handled the problematic questions with grace and dignity and didn't miss a beat in pivoting the conversation to a more positive and productive dialogue.
 
As a decades-long filmmaker and director of "The Last One," a documentary about The AIDS Memorial Quilt, I welcome television segments that further conversations about HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, Bure and Raven-Symoné's interview with Pintauro not only failed to advance a discussion on HIV awareness and prevention, it also perpetuated condemnation and stigma around HIV, which only serves to make the problem worse.
 
At a time when the urgency around this issue has slipped from America's consciousness, we need a resurgence of unbiased visibility on HIV/AIDS. There is good news to report. New treatments are helping to combat and manage HIV as a chronic disease. But the bad news should give everyone pause: Young people under 25 make up a quarter of new HIV infections.

As I've tried to communicate in "The Last One," this alarming statistic is due in large part to a lack of knowledge about the seriousness of HIV, and a lack of awareness about the history of the disease which causes a general complacency around it. That is why I set out to tell the history of the Quilt and the disease through this documentary. In my discussions with prominent HIV/AIDS activists, I heard frustration about a nation that has largely forgotten about this issue.
 
It is difficult for me to understand how we as a society could collectively turn a blind eye to this epidemic which has already claimed 30 million lives and continues to infect 34 million men, women and children globally, including 50,000 new infections a year in the U.S. alone.
 
Through "The Last One," it is my goal to shine a light on the history of HIV/AIDS, the stigma and discrimination still surrounding it, the lack of access to care by many, and how that exacerbates the disease. I also wanted show that this disease cuts across race, class, age and socio-economic status. People living with HIV need support and compassion, not condemnation. A lack of understanding is often harder to live with than the disease itself. "The View" segment is an illustration of that callousness.
 
I hope my film is an antidote to ignorance, and while I am thrilled to have shared it through more than a dozen film festivals and aired it on Showtime, it's not enough. That is why my company, Red Thread Productions, is planning to take this film on the road in 2016 in a national youth outreach campaign. We will screen the documentary and display the AIDS Memorial Quilt at 500 schools, churches and community organizations, along with with question and answer sessions. This campaign, with the film as the cornerstone, is one asset in the larger tool box needed to bring the conversation about HIV/AIDS back on the front burner.
 
I challenge producers of "The View" to do a follow-up segment on the topic of HIV/AIDS. The hosts should invite Danny Pintauro back, apologize for their previous questions, and conduct a new and substantive interview. They should ask him about the challenges and opportunities HIV has presented in his life and the resilience it has taken to navigate in a world that still too often shames people when they are honest and authentic about their journeys.

It should also include an expert voice who can cut through the stigma and get to the facts about what it takes to confront HIV/AIDS. Promoting clear, open-minded dialogue is an extremely important step to tackling this epidemic.
 
With her passion for theatre, film, television and new media, Nadine C. Licostie has directed projects with some of the top talent across these diverse media. Licostie has led teams of writers, graphic designers, editors and multimedia programmers creating award-winning national television commercials, promotion, interactive media and corporate events. She is the executive producer and director of "The Last One," and a founding principal of Red Thread Productions.


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