Tyler Perry disappointed several critics and supporters alike with his depiction of HIV in his film, “Temptation,” including many in the HIV community. In the film, the main character Judith was seemingly “punished” for adultery and straying from the teachings of the church when she learned she contracted HIV from her lover. At the close of the movie, it appeared that she aged significantly faster than her husband (so much so an older actor plays her only a few years later) and she’s shown limping alone down the road to church.
The Positive Women’s Network of the United States of America is speaking out against Perry’s portrayal of the disease as punishment for sins and as a life sentence of loneliness and misery.
They demand that he cease stigmatizing people with HIV in a poignant open letter.
See an excerpt below:
Dear Mr. Perry,
We write as people living with HIV and their allies to express our deep disappointment with your latest film, Temptation. This disappointment is made all the greater because you have done much that can be applauded. Audiences see your plays and films not simply as entertainment, but as opportunities for inspiration, spiritual healing, and unity.
As you may be aware, one of the greatest barriers to addressing the HIV epidemic is the high level of stigma and misinformation attached to this simple virus. Stigma prevents people from getting tested for HIV, from protecting themselves during sex, from accessing care when they test positive, and from disclosing their HIV status to family, friends, and sexual partners. Myths and outdated perceptions about how HIV is transmitted and the implications of an HIV diagnosis have resulted in discriminatory treatment towards, and violence against, people living with HIV.
Unfortunately, Temptation can only serve to perpetuate stigma. Your film depicts people with HIV as untouchable and unlovable, doomed to a lifetime of loneliness, and unable to tell their own stories. It implies that men with HIV are sexually irresponsible and predatory. And the final image — that of a woman who has been infected with HIV due to an extramarital affair walking away alone and unhealthy — sends the message that HIV is a punishment for immoral behavior.
Mr. Perry, as a leader in the African-American community, is this really the message you want to send in 2013, over three decades into this epidemic? Your impact on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in the community is not insignificant. And if you portray people with HIV as sinful, secretive monsters, unworthy of love and incapable of reproduction, what incentive do people have to learn their HIV status or for people with HIV to disclose their status?
Read more of the letter here.