Watch: National AIDS Memorial Releases Mini-Documentary, 'Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS'

Saturday August 28, 2021
Originally published on August 24, 2021

A film still from 'Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS.'
A film still from 'Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS.'  (Source:aidsmememorial.org)

A new documentary released by The National AIDS Memorial brings to light the stories of people living with HIV. From overcoming addiction, fear and stigma to their triumphs, resilience and hopes, this latest Surviving Voices Initiative was screened at several film festivals, including Frameline45 and SF Queer Film Fest, and is now available to the general public.

The National AIDS Memorial Surviving Voices storytelling initiative continues to tell the story of AIDS through the voices of survivors of the pandemic, now in its 40th year. More than 700,000 U.S. lives have been lost since the first cases of AIDS were first reported in 1981. Today, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV, with a disproportionate impact in communities of color and in southern U.S. states.

The National AIDS Memorial's most recent mini-documentary, "Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS," features personal interview segments with survivors and advocates and explores the complex intersection of addiction and HIV.


"The National AIDS Memorial is honored to have our Surviving Voices mini-documentary featured at these influential film festivals," said Chief Executive John Cunningham. "It speaks to the important work our organization is doing to share these powerful personal stories of hope, resilience and the journey of survivors around the issue of HIV/AIDS and addiction in an authentic and powerful way."

"Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS" focuses the camera on the unique challenges of HIV/AIDS faced by this community. Through personal stories of survival, the film captures the journey of AIDS advocates and those of individual survivors living with HIV/AIDS who have struggled simultaneously with the disease of addiction in raw, honest and forthright conversations. It depicts their individual strength, power, hope and resilience, the importance of community, spirit, self-respect, and the will to live with dignity and pride. It also shows their vulnerabilities, the shame, denial, stigma, and hopelessness they have experienced.

As Queer Chaplain Bonnie Violet Quintana shares, "I can be as I am. Me getting HIV. Me being in recovery — all of that is a big part of Me."

The National AIDS Memorial's Surviving Voices mini-documentaries are produced and directed by Jörg Fockele and funded through a grant by Chevron, a long-standing partner of the National AIDS Memorial. Community partners include the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, The Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network, Stonewall Project and the Castro Country Club.

Surviving Voices is a program of the National AIDS Memorial created to ensure the myriad stories and lessons of the epidemic are captured, curated, and retained for current and future generations. "Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS" is the sixth film produced in this multi-year oral history initiative, which also includes "The Transgender Community & AIDS," "The A&PI Community & AIDS," "Women & AIDS," "The National Hemophilia Community & AIDS," and "The San Francisco Leather Community & AIDS."

"I hope that these mini-documentaries will be as inspiring for current and future generations confronting their own challenges as they were for us when we filmed them," said Fockele.

Learn more about the Surviving Voices, the National AIDS Memorial, its mission, programs and how to provide support at www.aidsmemorial.org.