By: Amanda Anderson-Niles
Tyler Perry hasn’t had the best few weeks. Not only did the filmmaker recently get slapped with a lawsuit accusing him of stealing the storyline to his “Temptation” film, but the latest movie he produced, “Peeples,” flopped hard at the box office. It now appears that Perry has another problem on his hands and this new issue is also a result of his “Temptation” movie. Turns out the movie offended a lot of people in the HIV community. Those upset with the film feel as if the ending was making the assumption that catching HIV is some sort of punishment and to be diagnosed with the STD endures one will live a lonely and sad life. The Positive Women’s Network of the United States of America penned a letter and created a petition slamming him for coming up with a plot they feel is offensive to those living with HIV and they demand a meeting with him immediately. The organization writes:
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 Myths and outdated perceptions about how HIV is transmitted and the implications of an HIV diagnosis have resulted in discriminatory treatment towards, and violence against,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?
HIV is not something that “guilty” people get. It is not a punishment for cheating, lying, using drugs or alcohol, having more than one partner, or not asking the right questions. It is a virus whose transmission is fueled by poverty, ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, fear, violence, and many other factors – not by people with HIV. In fact, studies show that the overwhelming majority of people with HIV fiercely protect their partners once they know their HIV status. Many of us are in long-term relationships with HIV-negative partners. And yes, we even have children!
We call on you to undo the damage that your film has undoubtedly already caused.
The organization goes on to request that Tyler meets with them and talks to actual people living with the STD. It was also clear in the rest of the letter that they are also seeking an apology. No word yet from Tyler’s camp.