D.C.'s AIDS Epidemic, Otherwise Ignored, in The Other City

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The Other City
Directed by Susan Koch
Cabin Films
Opens September 17, Chelsea Cinema

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At a point so subtle it was easy to miss, somewhere in the late-'90s, HIV and AIDS began to be thought of as third-world problems. It's probably no coincidence, as director Susan Koch (Kicking It) points out in The Other City, that the transition in the public consciousness happened around the same time that expensive treatments became available, and infections began occurring preponderantly among homeless and intravenous-drug-using populations. Less easy to explain is how Washington, D.C.'s infection rate soared to 3 percent during that same period (1 percent is considered an epidemic). In her absorbing, alarming investigation into the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation's capital, Koch cuts a cross-section through a bitter D.C. winter, following about half a dozen local victims, caregivers, family members, and activists as they grapple with a disease without the benefit of social awareness or political will. A young mother of three, infected by her abusive partner, unwittingly describes how cyclical poverty keeps infection rates high: If the system can't house her, she will find a man who can. A lack of education and the stonewalling of needle exchange programs also figure. The film's thin but luminous sliver of hope is embodied by the HIV sufferers working in their communities to correct what their congress has not.

 
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