In the film, the main character Judith contracts HIV after stepping out on her husband and straying from her Christian roots.
During the concluding scene, she looks rather aged compared to her former spouse, and somehow she develops a severe limp.
As the credits fall, she hobbles to church after work, presumably to atone for her sins. The Positive Women’s Network of the United States of America is speaking out against Perry’s portrayal of HIV as punishment for sins and as a life sentence of loneliness and misery.
They demand that he cease stigmatizing people with HIV in a poignant open letter.
We write as people living with HIV and their allies to express our deep disappointment with your latest film, Temptation. This disappointment is made all the greater because you have done much that can be applauded. Audiences see your plays and films not simply as entertainment, but as opportunities for inspiration, spiritual healing, and unity.
As you may be aware, one of the greatest barriers to addressing the HIV epidemic is the high level of stigma and misinformation attached to this simple virus. Stigma prevents people from getting tested for HIV, from protecting themselves during sex, from accessing care when they test positive, and from disclosing their HIV status to family, friends, and sexual partners. Myths and outdated perceptions about how HIV is transmitted and the implications of an HIV diagnosis have resulted in discriminatory treatment towards, and violence against, people living with HIV.
Unfortunately, Temptation can only serve to perpetuate stigma. Your film depicts people with HIV as untouchable and unlovable, doomed to a lifetime of loneliness, and unable to tell their own stories. It implies that men with HIV are sexually irresponsible and predatory. And the final image — that of a woman who has been infected with HIV due to an extramarital affair walking away alone and unhealthy — sends the message that HIV is a punishment for immoral behavior.
Mr. Perry, as a leader in the African-American community, is this really the message you want to send in 2013, over three decades into this epidemic? Your impact on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in the community is not insignificant. And if you portray people with HIV as sinful, secretive monsters, unworthy of love and incapable of reproduction, what incentive do people have to learn their HIV status or for people with HIV to disclose their status?