POSITIVELY: THE CHANGING FACE OF AIDS IN AMERICA
Grady Watts and Geraldine Wurzburg, executive producers
Friday, 9-10 p.m., KCET-TV
There's a clear mission behind the hourlong PBS documentary, "Positively: The Changing Face of AIDS in America," sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. The program, which provides a look at the daily lives of adults, teens and young children living with HIV and AIDS, focuses on how therapy, support groups, churches and family can provide emotional support to people living with the incurable disease. Airing the day before World AIDS Day, the program provides an inside look at what it's like having AIDS 20 years into the global epidemic, when better medications make it more of a chronic illness.
The program's strength lies in engaging interviews with a terrific group of adults and kids. Straight, gay, middle-class, poor, they're mostly identified on a first-name basis--and all seem to be working to maintain a good attitude, despite the obstacles. Their stories are honest, compelling, sometimes heartbreaking, often uplifting.
Yet the production feels a bit artificial: the quick-cut camera movements are disorienting, there is little scientific and medical detail and the overall tone felt unrealistically upbeat.
Although much of the program tries to convince viewers that folks with HIV are just like us, the reality is that we have no idea how tough it is for them to cope with depression, maintain demanding treatment regimens and endure the disease's stigma.
Nevertheless, the intention is admirable and the program has an excellent companion Web site, at http://www.wellme.com/aids.html, that addresses testing, referrals, support and getting involved in the fight against AIDS.