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Hollywood's HIV Hypocrisy?

Hollywood's HIV Hypocrisy?


At the Academy Awards ceremony in March, Oscar winner George Clooney declared Hollywood's elite 'the first ones to shout about AIDS when it was just a whisper.' But that's not how the Tinseltown actress and songwriter Kathleen 'Bird' York remembers. York, who cowrote and performed the Oscar-nominated song 'In the Deep' from Best Picture winner Crash, says she faced blatant discrimination on a movie set in the early 1990s after her brother contracted HIV. 'At night I was going to the hospital to be with my brother,' she says. 'During the day I was rehearsing. I was exhausted.' Panicked producers, worried that York had become infected while caring for her sibling, demanded that she take an HIV antibody test'and be negative'to keep her role. When she insisted that their discriminatory request be submitted in writing, they quickly backpedaled. Just six weeks later her brother died. York says she was particularly shocked at the timing of the phobia she faced, since Congress had just passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, which offered antidiscrimination protections to HIVers, among others. The film industry at that time also was loudly touting production of the AIDS-themed drama Philadelphia, which took on the issues of HIV stigma and discrimination. This was the movie Clooney was likely referring to in his Oscar acceptance speech. Fortunately, AIDS awareness in Hollywood has improved dramatically since then, says York, who costars on The West Wing and has released a new CD, Wicked Little High. But even so, Clooney's revisionist remark was a painful reminder to her that Hollywood'at least when it comes to AIDS issues'isn't always as progressive as it claims to be.

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