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Alumnus discusses AIDS documentary

TAMPA, Fla. -- University of South Florida alumnus Ed Wolf visited the campus library Tuesday for the showing of "We Were Here," an 89-minute documentary about the AIDS epidemic in San Fransisco during the 1980s.

The film follows five people, including Ed Wolf, who lived in San Francisco during the 1980s AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that nearly 16,000 deaths occurred as a result of the HIV/AIDS outbreak in the 80s, according to the film. The five people featured in the film look back on the way it felt to be in the middle of such a horrible and scary situation.

The film illustrates how American homophobia was at an all time high as gay friends and lovers began to die one-by-one. The deaths continued day after day as the infected scrambled to find experimental treatments. Many of the people who had the disease died only a few weeks after diagnosis. It took a long time for scientists to discover what this strange illness was or how it was transmitted.

Wolf said he was one of the lucky ones who never got HIV.

All of his friends, except for one, died from the disease, he said. The documentary participants said they wish their friends could be here now to see how far society has come to overcome HIV/AIDS as well as homophobia.

"We Were Here" has been shown worldwide at film festivals such as Sundance and Berlin International. The film also gained some Oscar buzz, but it didn't recieve a nomination for "Best Documentary." "It was on the short list," Wolf said. "This movie is so potent and clearly has a whole life ahead of it."

The film's audience of about 50 people on Tuesday night seemed to agree it brought a powerful message. The emotion of the images and spoken statements had an impact on a wide spectrum of ages, with no regard for sexuality or gender. Several people cried through the entire viewing, there were not enough tissues to go around toward the end.

One of the resounding messages of the film is about how a scorned community came together to be the family for those who had been rejected by their own family. Wolf was one of the Shanti volunteers who counseled and cared for the victims of AIDS. There were few places, even hospitals, which agreed to care for all of the dying people. Those who did reach out made a huge impact in many people's lives.

The event was sponsored by the Committee on Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the GLBT and Allied Medical Student Association, the USF Center for HIV Education and Research, the USF Department of History and the USF Tampa Library’s LGBT Collections Initiative.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Arts and Sciences Alumni English History  
Author: Valerie Rooks-Bernard