The 10 Best Documentaries About Aids

Jul 22, 2023 | Best Of, Health, Medicine

AIDS is a global epidemic that has left many lives in its wake. It’s caused untold suffering and pain for those affected, as well as their families and friends. But it has also been the subject of some remarkable documentaries that have helped to spread awareness about this disease. These documentaries provide an important window into the lives of people living with AIDS, offering hope amidst despair while also highlighting the struggles faced by those who are fighting against it. From inspiring stories of resilience and courage to heartbreaking tales of loss, these films showcase powerful narratives that remind us why we must never give up on our fight against AIDS.


1. AIDS in KC: The Early Days

The LGBTQ community nationwide faced a crisis few understood when a deadly virus spread throughout the country. While many remained silent, Kansas City stepped up to advocate for those affected by the epidemic. Local members of the community and allies joined forces to form grassroots movements that provided social safety nets and support for queer people abandoned by their elected leaders. In 2022, many survivors still carry memories of attending multiple funerals in one month or losing all their best friends within weeks of diagnosis.


2. Life Before the Lifeboat: San Francisco’s Courageous Response to the AIDS Outbreak

This documentary tells the incredible story of how a group of dedicated individuals came together to fight and respond to the AIDS epidemic in its early years in San Francisco. Paul Volberding, MD, UCSF’s pioneering physician on AIDS Research is featured in intimate conversations with some of the city’s courageous leaders from those dark days. “Life Before The Lifeboat” highlights how political activists and health care professionals at SFGH, UCSF and other medical centers joined forces to tackle this health crisis – ultimately creating a national model for care for people living with HIV/AIDS.


3. AIDS in KC: Facing the Challenge

The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s was a devastating time for many communities, particularly the LGBT community who were often ostracized and neglected. Facing the Challenge is an inspiring documentary that looks at how local helpers rallied to organize support in this difficult period. From the Ad-Hoc Group Against Crime to Good Samaritan Project, we look at different organizations created by those affected by AIDS and learn about their incredible work in supporting a vulnerable community.


4. Community Stories: Seattle in the Age of AIDS

In this documentary, we look back to the early 1980s in Seattle when panic and fear were rampant due to the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Hear from those who lived on the front lines of this community—the stories are told through their words. Learn more about what happened during this time period and how it affected people’s lives. This episode originally aired 2/13/2009 and is now available for viewing!


5. The HORRIFYING History of AIDS

HIV and AIDS are two of the most devastating illnesses in modern times, claiming millions of lives worldwide. In this video, we explore the history of HIV and AIDS: how it was first discovered, its impact on global health, and what can be done to prevent its spread. We also look at some of the social stigmas associated with these diseases and discuss how they can be addressed. Get informed about this important topic today!


6. Those People: AIDS in the Public Mind (KQED Current Affairs Department, 1987)

This documentary takes a compassionate look at the lives of San Franciscans living with AIDS/ARC and those who support them. It shows the courage and dedication of people like Bobby Reynolds, an activist whose words have inspired many to confront society’s fears about this disease. Additionally, it showcases the incredible work done by the Shanti Project to provide physical and emotional support for those affected by AIDS/ARC. This inspiring video captures stories that will stay with you long after watching it.


7. How HIV Positive Teens Handle The Disease – Positive Youth – HIV Documentary

This documentary focuses on the struggles of young people living with HIV. It follows positive youth as they navigate their lives and manage the disease. Get an inside look at how they handle daily challenges, build relationships and stay healthy in spite of it all. This inspiring film will show you that even when faced with a difficult diagnosis, life can still be meaningful and enjoyable.


8. The Face Of AIDS: The Story Behind Therese Frare’s Photo

In 1990, a powerful image of AIDS patient David Kirby on his deathbed taken by Therese Frare gave the illness a human face. This picture was used in an advertisement for United Colors of Benetton which blurred the lines between commerce and public provocation. In this video, we explore how this iconic photo changed the way we view AIDS and its impact on society.


9. Big Brother AIDS (Medical Documentary) | Real Stories

In this documentary, we take a look at the phenomenon of Big Brother Africa. It has become hugely popular in sub-Saharan Africa, and sparked debates about its content – from love stories to talking about sex. We’ll explore how these topics have been received in a continent where AIDS is taking such an immense toll on young people’s lives. Join us as we examine how this reality show is impacting culture and society in Africa today!


10. Reflecting back on the AIDS epidemic and the great advances in science

This year marks forty years since the Aids epidemic was first identified on the west coast of the US. In this exclusive interview with ABC, Dr Anthony Fauci remembers his early days leading the fight against HIV and reflects on how far science and treatment have come in that time – yet still so many lives have been lost to this devastating condition. Join us as we look back at these four decades of struggle against AIDS, told through interviews with those who lived it.


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David B