Tyler Perry’s “Temptation” and People Living with HIV


Waheedah Shabazz-El, Founding Member, iamshabazz@yahoo.com, (267) 231-2647
Sonia Rastogi, Communications Director, sbrastogi@gmail.com, (408) 306-6805

Tyler Perry’s Temptation Sentences People with HIV to a Lifetime of Stigma and Isolation

April 16, 2013, New York, NY – “Tyler Perry’s Temptation left me emotionally pained, angry and disappointed.  Mr. Perry, a brilliant film maker, missed a genuine opportunity for honest and accurate community education around HIV.  Instead, Temptation perpetuated HIV sensationalism and stigma.  It demonized people living with HIV as irresponsible and portrayed women who acquire HIV as an undesirable,  reclusive,  sub-species, destined to live out their lives in suffering commented Waheedah Shabazz-El, a woman living with HIV.

Two weekends and $212.7 million later, Tyler Perry’s film Temptation perpetuates the War on Women, fuels stigma and discrimination towards people of color and people living with HIV, and condones the belief that people living with HIV are sinners, who deserve punishment.

Positive Women’s Network – USA, a national membership body of women living with HIV advocating for the rights and dignity of all women, is deeply disturbed by Perry’s stigmatizing portrayal of women, people living with HIV, and people of color. Instead of using his film as a moment to challenge the rampant violence against women in our society, break down the self-hatred that causes people to live in shame, and showcase powerful role models for our young girls and boys, Perry demonizes and vilifies people of color and people living with HIV – two of the most targeted, profiled, and marginalized communities in the U.S.

By perpetuating a rhetoric that raises illogical fears that HIV-positive people are inherently violent, corrupt, immoral, and deviant, Perry plays into the misguided belief that people living with HIV deserve to be punished. In the U.S., HIV criminalization laws are real. They separate families and lock up people in 34 states and 2 territories. These laws are barriers, preventing people from HIV testing, accessing treatment and seeking medical care or social support.  Many people living with HIV believe they do not deserve a fulfilling and dignified life. These laws do not prevent HIV transmission, they keep people from knowing their status or seeking care. His film effectively reverses the phenomenal victories of groups working to combat HIV stigma and criminalization, including the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, SERO Project and Positive Justice Project.

By creating a rhetoric that condones violence against women and blames women for their “actions,” Perry dismisses the complex realities of women’s lives.

Movies and messages like this reinforce judgments that are akin to a societal death penalty. Women are dying because they can’t bear knowing and/or don’t want anyone else to know that they may be living with HIV. Thus they may choose not to engage in care, take medication, and/or disclose. 2 out of 3 women who newly test positive are Black women. Women are more likely to be diagnosed late with a dual HIV and AIDS diagnosis.  In addition, Black women account for the largest share of deaths among all women living with HIV and in 2009, HIV was the 4th leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 44. Stigma and discrimination are largely responsible for women getting sick faster and dying sooner.

As partners, sisters, mothers, daughters, teachers, and lovers, living with HIV, we denounce Perry’s portrayal of HIV as a punishment for bad behavior.  We further denounce Perry’s portrayal of HIV-positive women as unworthy of love, incapable of relationships, and his portrayal of men living with HIV as sexually irresponsible predators.

Positive Women’s Network – USA calls for the responsible and respectful use of the media by filmmakers. Mr. Perry, as someone with incredible power, resources, and privilege to dictate our society’s culture and norms, it is your responsibility to accurately represent those who you portray.  Give us a call next time you want to make a film about women and HIV.

3 thoughts on “Tyler Perry’s “Temptation” and People Living with HIV

  1. AMEN!!! It’s people like this who give bad names to all of the HIV+ people who live and thrive with an illness that was not asked for or wanted. These stigmatizing money makers should live a day in the life of a pos person and have a dose of reality from another perspective. What does a comedian know about love and romance?? Stick to what you know and not what you think!

  2. My God…. this is one of the most well stated articles I’ve heard in a very long time. Thank you for defending the women who have no voice, who are afraid as well and the ones who have to deal with the stigma every single day. I truly believe that you have to be a very courageous woman to stand up and say all that you’ve said in reference to a movie that people were waiting in lines at the box office to see. I feel so hurt that there are certain people who have yet to gain knowledge about HIV went to see that movie before even making themselves aware of the TRUE MEANING of HIV. I work for a community health organization and we provide FREE HIV testing to the community. The program that I facilitate is for women of color who’ve been infected with the virus or who may be at risk for contracting the virus. Most of what you’ve said is our focal point for the intervention. Mr. Perry should have paid a visit to the real women who deal with HIV everyday instead of assuming and depicting it in a film. It does not truly show or even begin to describe any significance of a woman dealing with HIV. Please keep doing what you are doing. We need more women who will stand up like yourself, and be a voice in the communities. God Bless…..

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