You might think that living within spitting distance of the policymakers and legislators who identify and fund healthcare priorities would make you more visible if you're part of a population in desperate need of attention, education and services. But a new documentary focusing on the high numbers of Washington, D.C., residents living with HIV/AIDS suggests that proximity and access are hardly synonymous in the healthcare world.
“The Other City,” which debuted last week at the annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York, was directed by filmmaker Susan Koch and written by former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas. The documentary takes a look at the 30-year-old HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation's capital, where at least 3% of the population is infected with the disease.
The film juxtaposes HIV/AIDS-positive Washington residents—who are largely African-American, frequently Latino and, in this case, most often poor—navigating an increasingly scarce system of housing, treatment and support services against lawmakers who are growing less sympathetic and interested in addressing the epidemic. At one point the film shows Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, saying on the House floor that he “didn't force people to use illegal drugs” or have sex with HIV-positive partners.