[The 90’s raw: Meredith Duhamel]

Raw footage for the award-winning series The 90's. Interview by Starr Sutherland with Meredith Duhamel, AIDS educator in San Mateo County, CA. She discusses how tactics in AIDS education have changed from the '80s to the '90s.

00:00Copy video clip URL The tape opens on Meredith Duhamel’s face, and she introduces herself and explains that she is an AIDS educator in San Mateo County Public Health Department. She is sitting inside a house.

1:00Copy video clip URL “In the ’80s, AIDS education was a fairly simple education system based on fear and facts… simplistically, always use condoms, never share needles…,” Duhamel says. However, this message did not fit the lifestyles of people. “In the ’90s, I see AIDS education moving in several different directions…” that she is optimistic about.

1:58Copy video clip URL Duhamel says they will address the issue of relapse, in order to encourage people not to revert back to their old ways. She says they plan to give ongoing support (like Alcoholics Anonymous), and will have to change their programs to fit different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

3:40Copy video clip URL The next issue that is going to be very important is “making AIDS education more interactive and less didactic… If you ask people on the street they can tell you [everything about AIDS], but if you ask them if they use condoms, the common answer is ‘no’… People have the information and they’re not using it.” She lists different related problems.

05:00Copy video clip URL “Lastly, one of the areas … is doing early intervention with people who are already infected.” Duhamel lists figures about people who are infected but not sick, and says, “We know there’s a lot they can do to delay or prevent the onset of symptoms.”

05:45Copy video clip URL The camera cuts. Duhamel expands on the things that she said before, and says that it is important that the AIDS message be relevant and fit into the context of the rest of their life. “We’ve given people the facts but we haven’t taught them how it relates to their life.”

07:25Copy video clip URL “I don’t think we have gone broad enough or deep enough into why people are getting infected, and why people aren’t protecting themselves.” Videomaker Starr Sutherland then asks about changes in the demographics of people that she educates. She says that in the last several months, it has shifted from white gay males to more women, more people of color, and more people who have been involved with drug use.

08:51Copy video clip URL Sutherland asks about the public perception and the concept of AIDS as an “epidemic.” Duhamel says that white males have not seen the kind of increase that black males have, so people think of it less as an epidemic now. “White middle class America is not as concerned as they need to be… They see it as either a gay problem, a drug user problem or a people of color problem.” She talks briefly about the impact on the health care system.

10:50Copy video clip URL Sutherland asks about figures, and Duhamel says that there are 50,000 with AIDS, but one million people are merely infected but not symptomatic, but could become symptomatic. Sutherland asks her opinion about AIDS education, and she says she is disappointed because a lot of people still have homophobia, and associate AIDS with homosexuality. Sutherland asks for something positive about AIDS education, and Duhamel talks about the collaboration of different groups in fighting the epidemic.

13:34Copy video clip URL Duhamel says that someone she knew said “We all have AIDS, just not all of us have the virus in our body,” meaning that all of our lives are affected by AIDS.

14:17Copy video clip URL Duhamel tells a story about prostitutes who don’t wear condoms because they get double the money, and names this as one of the economic obstacles.

15:42Copy video clip URL Duhamel talks about how people don’t want to pay for research on AIDS, because more people die from cancer. However, she thinks that research on AIDS will help with learning about other diseases. A phone rings. She resumes, and talks about possible future viruses, and the difference between cancer and AIDS, saying that AIDS is preventable whereas we don’t have control over cancer. AIDS also is most common in younger people, at an age when they should be contributing to society, while cancer is most common in older people who are past the age of being productive members of society.

18:45Copy video clip URL Sutherland adds that AIDS is an epidemic, and Duhamel agrees, and talks about the importance of prevention because AIDS is communicable.

20:00Copy video clip URL Sutherland asks what Duhamel thinks about Africa. Duhamel visited Cameroon for an AIDS conference, and called the situation “helpless” because of the poverty. The annual cost of treatment in the US is many times the annual income in Cameroon. She compares infection rates and number of cases in several countries.

22:00Copy video clip URL Sutherland asks what the education about AIDS is like in Uganda, and talks about rituals and tribal customs that foster the transmission of AIDS, and says that malnutrition weakens the immune system. In addition, the disease is mostly heterosexually transmitted there.

24:00Copy video clip URL Duhamel says she thinks that the US and European countries will eventually develop a system to treat AIDS in a way comparable to the treatment of diabetes. However, this is not transferable to Africa: “It’s just not feasible to transfer that kind of technology to developing countries.” “Medical care in the world today is a very elitist system.” The only way Duhamel sees of evading this system is to come up with a cost-effective vaccine or treatment. “That’s one of the iniquities of life.”

26:52Copy video clip URL Sutherland is interested by the economic aspects of the disease, as opposed to cancer. There are much greater differences between rich and poor countries in terms of AIDS, in contrast with cancer (whose incidence does not vary much across countries). Duhamel attributes this to lifestyles and also to living conditions. “It’s a very economically based disease, and it has a lot to with poverty, unlike… heart disease.” She talks briefly about people trying to move to America and Europe in order to get the best treatment (from Puerto Rico, for instance).

30:17Copy video clip URL End of tape.


1 Comment

  1. Susan McLester says:

    Sutherland does a remarkable job of soliciting information from DuHamel. It’s as if they have some kind of special connection. I learned a lot about HIV!

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