NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been 30 years since the war on HIV/AIDS formally began. It was then that the disease was identified and researchers began looking for treatments and cures.
Marilyn Ness directed a new documentary, “Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale”, focusing on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how a so-called ‘miracle treatment’ for hemophilia in the 1980’s became a death sentence for thousands of Americans.
“In the war against HIV and AIDS, the disease has certainly progressed around the world,” said Ness. “My film primarily focused on what happened in the hemophilia community, since they were one of the earliest groups that were affected as the disease emerged.”
Ness is a two-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker who tells the hemophilia medication disaster story through the eyes of survivors and family members.
Ness felt it was important to make “Bad Blood”, not only for those who lived through the scare but also for a generation oblivious to the terror once felt by the nation. “One of the things that I find astonishing is we briefly chronicle the Ricky Ray and Ryan White stories [both of whom died of AIDS] in our film, since they were two hemophiliacs who were impacted and people know they were kicked out of schools and I think they don’t even know that that part of the history of the disease existed,” said Ness. “They say the disease rates are climbing among the younger generation who believe it’s [HIV/AIDS] a one pill a day kind of drug and not the death sentence that it used to be.”
The protagonist of the film, if you will, would have to be the entire hemophilia community who battled the system, for themselves and all Americans. “This community rose up, found out that their drugs were contaminated, that it was preventable, and they made sure that the system was changed, both for their benefit and for the safety of the rest of the country,” explained Ness. “In doing so they protected the U.S. blood supply.”
The result of the determination by the hemophilia community is that now HIV transmission by blood transfusion is extremely rare in the U.S. “In that community the HIV epidemic has been stopped,” said Ness. “Their medication is now safe and so this is not a concern for that community moving forward.”
The activism can also be attributed with leading to the positive advances that have been made in HIV/AIDS research. “I don’t believe that AIDS and HIV is a death sentence anymore. I think they’ve managed to make it a chronic illness and an illness that’s manageable, not with a slew of medications but with one pill a day in many cases,” Ness said optimistically. “But it’s [HIV/AIDS] an evolving thing, it still is life-impacting in so many ways and so I think ongoing it’s a crisis in this country and the rest of the world.”
“Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale” can be seen through PBS Home Video and will soon be available on NetFlix. “’Bad Blood’ really sends a message in one community where something went terribly wrong in the way the government regulates a pharmaceutical industry, that it turns out your voice can make a difference.”
For more information on ‘Bad Blood’ or hemophilia contact the Texas Central Hemophilia Association.