When the San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF) opened in 1986 as an all-volunteer-staffed hospice it served a mere seven clients. Today they serve thousands of HIV/AIDS patients every year — patients that can consider themselves lucky.
When an unknown virus appeared in San Francisco in 1981, gay men were dropping like flies and no one knew where it came from or how it could be transmitted. And, except for those in the gay community and a handful of volunteers willing to take a chance in fighting the unknown “gay plague,” no one cared. Obituary pages in newspapers kept growing, and once it was known that the disease was transmitted via sexual intercourse, most hospitals refused to treat the victims in an attempt to avoid being known as an “AIDS hospital.” Even most of those who were able to access medical care were alone. In many cases, their families had abandoned them, and their partners could not receive any information from doctors because they were “not family.”
We Were Here: The AIDS years in San Francisco, a documentary directed by David Weissman and Bill Weber, is a moving and informative film that explores AIDS’ early, lethal attack on the city’s gay community. It is being shown Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse (Park North) as part of SAAF’s 25th anniversary.
The movie shows how San Francisco’s gay community started a revolution with a display of intelligence, fortitude, and love that accelerated the process that today allows people with HIV to continue their lives with dignity. It clearly shows the roles of the most important characters in the story: the victims, the survivors, and the many volunteer workers at hospitals and hospices who stepped up to the plate when they saw nobody was helping these gay men, many of them in their teens.
It is a remarkable film that makes its point in a well-informed, convincing, and gentle manner, which makes its message even more powerful, at least for those who think every person deserves a chance in life and dignity in death. Ultimately, it is a movie about love.
The activities start at 5:30 p.m. with a mix and mingle (food and cash bar provided), followed by a performance of They Call Me the AIDS Lady by local actor/playwright Anna De Luna at 6 p.m., a guest speaker, and the film’s SA premiere at 7:30 p.m. You can attend all these events for $20, or just see the movie for $8.
The Alamo Drafthouse is located at 618 NW Loop 410. For more info, visit txsaaf.org/events.