SINGING TELEGRAMS

John Gress’ Video About Gay Black Men And HIV Is Good, But Is It Realistic?

After a report from the Center for Disease Control revealed a huge increase in HIV cases among black men who have sex with other men, photographer and director John Gress decided to make a music video about a young black guy who faces depression after being diagnosed positive, set to Marshall Titus’ song “I Will.”

It’s worth watching if only to get to the 4:50 mark, when Titus hits an insane note to rival Minnie Riperton’ “Loving You.”

The director explains his inspiration:

For almost 30 years the focus solely on condom usage and fear has led to a rift in our society. People who are negative run from people who are positive, and people who are positive run from people who are negative to avoid rejection. People who think they are negative are afraid to be tested because the last thing any one wants is to be marginalized.

I wanted to show that although an HIV diagnosis can be a traumatic event, everyone has people who will love, support and accept them. I purposefully only disclosed the HIV status of one of the charactersfor two reasons. I wanted it to be possible that the lead character went on a date with someone HIV-negative. The other reason is that we can’t tell who is positive and who is negative.

The video does a good job of showing genuine reactions to becoming positive and that an HIV diagnosis needn’t mean becoming shut you out from the gay community.

But does it address the reality of bi/gay male isolation in the black community? After all, the protagonist seems to exist in a relatively affluent and gay-friendly world, when in reality studies show that HIV thrives among gay and bisexual black men precisely because of the dearth of medical clinics in black neighborhoods and unsympathetic community attitudes towards gay and bi men of color.

No, but it’s just a music video and if it can help even one guy to feel better about being positive, then that’s a good thing.