If you could help end HIV/AIDS, would you? That’s the question posed by #TreatmentForAll, the first documentary to be officially launched on Facebook.
“Can you imagine if I told you that we had everything we needed to decrease the number of cancer cases by 90%? People would be so excited, it would be groundbreaking, and everybody would call for that today,” says the State Department's Deborah Birx, in the new film.
Birx coordinates the United States’ global response to HIV/AIDS, so she is well aware that, for the first time in the nearly 35 years, the world has been presented with both the tools and the opportunity needed to effectively stop the epidemic in its tracks. But because HIV/AIDS is a disease largely transmitted by sexual activity and intravenous drug use, stigma remains an immense hurdle.
To film the documentary, talk show host Ricki Lake and a handful of high-profile social media users traveled to the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Che Mdoma, Malawi. Of the 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world, 26 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS. Today, there are 438 students at Jacaranda. Ninety-eight percent were orphaned by AIDS, and a number live with HIV.
Actor and self-described entertainment artist Melvin Gregg spoke to MSNBC about the disproportionate impact the virus has on the most marginalized groups of society: people who are poor, people of color and people who identify as LGBT. “Everyone is a person. We’re all humans, and we all have something to offer,” Gregg said. “No one should be overlooked.”
#TreatmentForAll officially launched at 10:30 a.m. ET Monday on the Facebook page of UN Assistant Secretary-General Ray Chambers, who shared this message at Facebook’s New York City headquarters: HIV/AIDS is the single most important cause of inequity in the entire field of global health. “The inequity is that 37 million people are HIV-positive in the world, and only 14 million are getting treatment like Magic Johnson and Charlie Sheen,” Chamers said.
The documentary marks the start of the United States Government President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s (PEPFAR) #TreatmentForAll campaign – a new movement that calls on the entire globe to fast-track treatment for people diagnosed with HIV. The film is inspired by the recent HIV treatment guidelines issued by the World Health Organization.
In an appearance in the documentary, former President Bill Clinton summed up the film's message: “If you want to save lives and stop an epidemic that has already claimed tens of millions of people, treatment is the best prevention.”