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At the end of 2009 there were an estimated 75,000 people in Canada living with HIV - up from 50,000 in 2002. Of these, around 30% were unaware of their infection. It is estimated that between 2,300 and 4,500 new HIV infections occur in Canada each year, though many of these are not reported right away. From the start of testing in November 1985 until the end of December 2007, there have been 64,800 positive HIV tests reported to CIDPC (Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control).

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Back in 1985, when Canadian filmmaker Nik Sheehan made “AIDS: No Sad Songs”, the topic of Aids/HIV was socially and politically taboo. At the time the AIDS crisis had generated many films on the medical aspects of the disease, but Nik’s documentary was the first to focus on the emotional and psychological effects on victims, their friends and families. The film centres on Jim Black, age 37, who faces an early death from AIDS; and Catherine Hunt, whose beloved brother suffers from AIDS. Jim has made it his personal crusade to deal openly with the issues of AIDS and not regard it as a shameful disease. Candidly, he reveals his tenderness for his friend Kevin and the hurt he experienced by his family's rejection. Catherine is an impassioned example of a supportive family member. We learn from her how the open expression of love and trust makes it easier to bear sickness and the prospect of death. This documentary offers powerful insight into the effects this disease has on loved ones and family.

Of course, AIDS is a global crisis and no country is more affected than South Africa. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than any other region of the world. An estimated 22.4 million people are living with HIV in the region - around two thirds of the global total. In 2008 around 1.4 million people died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.9 million people became infected with HIV. Since the beginning of the epidemic more than 14 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The belief among many African black men that sex with a virgin -- even a child or baby -- can cure HIV/AIDS is fueling what is already one of the highest child sexual exploitation rates in the world. According to the latest report by South Africa's Police Service, children are the victims of 41 percent of all rapes and attempted rapes reported in the country. Over 15 percent of all reported rapes are against children under 11, and another 26 percent against children 12-17. For the year 2000, some 58 children were raped or the victims of rape attempts in South Africa every single day.

In “No Past To Speak Of”, filmmaker Jeremy Gans, shares a heartbreaking story of infant rape with us. On December 10, 2001, Claudia Ford, an American living in South Africa, received a phone call that would forever change her life-Vyanna, a 5-month-old baby, had been brutally raped in Johannesburg. The film follows Ford as she adopts Vyanna, trying to come to terms with the trauma her new daughter has experienced. Vyanna's case was one of over 20,000 reported child rapes in South Africa in 2001. “No Past to Speak Of” attempts to make sense of this epidemic of infant rapes, from an exploration of the myth that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS to looking at the profound dehumanizing effect of apartheid on those living in the townships. This moving story shows how a history of violence has left lasting scars on a country searching to redefine its future.

Both documentaries are candid and direct in their storytelling with no punches pulled regarding the impact of this disease.

Additional Online Resources

Canadian Aids Society

Canadian Foundation For Aids Research

Aids Youth Canada

Aids Committee Of Toronto

Selected Films (2)
  1. AIDS: No Sad Songs Preview Thumbnail
    AIDS: No Sad Songs
    • Country:Canada
    • Year:1985
    » View Documentary
  2. No Past to Speak Of Preview Thumbnail
    No Past to Speak Of
    • Country:Canada
    • Year:2006
    » View Documentary

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