An Open Letter to Tyler Perry

Dear Mr. Perry,

ImageWe 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.

In Temptation, however, you have done a great disservice to people with HIV, and particularly to the African American community, which, as you know, is disproportionately affected by HIV.

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 Myths and outdated perceptions about how HIV is transmitted and the implications of an HIV diagnosis have resulted in discriminatory treatment towards, and violence against,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?

HIV is not something that “guilty” people get. It is not a punishment for cheating, lying, using drugs or alcohol, having more than one partner, or not asking the right questions.  It is a virus whose transmission is fueled by poverty, ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, fear, violence, and many other factors – not by people with HIV.  In fact, studies show that the overwhelming majority of people with HIV fiercely protect their partners once they know their HIV status. Many of us are in long-term relationships with HIV-negative partners. And yes, we even have children!

We call on you to undo the damage that your film has undoubtedly already caused.  We ask you to meet with people living with HIV and hear our stories. We know that you are deeply committed to the communities that have supported your work and we ask that you make a public statement and consult with us to develop storylines that will help end HIV stigma so we can get to the real business of ending this epidemic, together.

Your response is greatly appreciated and we look forward to hearing from you in the very near future. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

We await your response.


A Cause Worth Fighting For
aChurch4Me Metropolitan Community Church
ACT-UP New York
ACT-UP Philadelphia
AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA)
AIDS Action Baltimore
AIDS Alabama
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
The Afiya Center for HIV Prevention and Sexual Reproductive Justice
BABES Network – YWCA
Black AIDS Institute
Bond Community Health Center/MAACA INC
Bronx AIDS Services
Brothers Reaching Others, Inc.
Cascade AIDS Project
Christie’s Place
Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of New York (CHAIN)
Conscious Contact of New York, Inc.
Detroit Legal Services
Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, North America (GNP+ NA)
GRACE of Greater Kansas City
Global Justice Institute, MCC
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA)
Housing Works
International Foundation for Alternative Research on AIDS
The LaStraw, Inc.
Let’s Talk About It
Living Faith Convenant Church
Louisiana Latino Health Coalition for HIV/AIDS Awareness
McLean county AIDS Task Force
Men & Women In Prison Ministries
Metropolitan Community Churches
Miami Valley Positives for Positives
National HIV/AIDS Disability Project
National Minority AIDS Council
Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services
People of Color Against AIDS Network
Positively Aware/Test Positive Aware Network
Positive Iowans Taking Charge (PITCH)
Positive Voices of Philadelphia, Inc
Positive Women’s Network – USA
Positive Women’s Network – Philadelphia
Positive Women’s Network – Colorado
Positive Women’s Network – Detroit
Positively U, Inc.
Rural Women’s Health Project
SERO Project
Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS Research and Treatment (SMART) University
Sisterlove, Inc.
Spokane AIDS Network
SW Boulevard Family Health Care Services of Greater KC
Twin States Network
UMC West conference AIDS TASK FORCE
Unity Fellowship of Christ NYC
Unity Fellowship Church NYC
U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus
The Well Project
Women’s Health and Justice Initiative
The Women’s HIV Program at the University of California, San Francisco
Women With a Vision, Inc
Wright Method
Yellowstone AIDS Project

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8 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Tyler Perry

  1. Greatly composed letter, I was glad to participate in the calls and the review to get the message across. Tyler Perry please make your your word be honest to those you insulted.

  2. I have not seen the movie, but I would have to take an anger management class before I did, from what I’ve read.

  3. Greatly written Letter concerning the stigmatization/ discrimination of People living with HIV. I feel that Mr. Tyler Perry should invest money into the communities to remove the stigma and next time ( if he does an movie concerning HIV) he should consider asking the people living with HIV for their input before making such a stigmatizing movie.

  4. I am deeply sadden by this. I haven’t seen the movie yet either but it makes me sad to think it’s spreading. We fight this everyday in our life. Not just the disease but stigma among family, friends, neighbors, and community. We are trying to educate even the medical community on how to treat us better then you have a movie pushing us back.

  5. This is unacceptable, In the year 2013 when HIV transmission to newborns has hit almost Zero, while we have worked so hard to Bring AIDS diagnosis down to ground Zero and groundbreaking research has indicated we might just be a step away to the Cure to the Aids causing virus HIV itself, one can only deduce that Mr Perry is assuredly moving backwards, or stagnated when the rest of the world moved on, maybe this is an indicator of an emerging gap that needs addressing on gains made over the years and attempt to bring the Mr Perry’s of this world to the current status of things HIV. We have come from so far, we dare not even engage in suchlike conversation lest we be bagged in the same trolley of ignorance & misinformation. This is a movie for the year 1991 not 2013.

  6. I was given tickets to the play, Marriage Counselor, in 2007 (2008) in Winston Salem, NC. I was so outdone by everything articulated in this letter and I promised myself and anybody with ears Tyler Perry wouldn’t get another dollar of my money. I stopped watching House of Payne, Meet the Browns… Curtis and Ella split, were homeless, Calvin had an affairs, “Rudy” was a crazy liar. The whole “Mr. Brown” (father) and “Cora” (daughter) storyline played by a real life husband and wife pair is troubling to me. He’s taken negative extremes validated them and now we aspire to that level of ignorance. I have to catch myself everytime I act like I want to respond to “Good Mornting” with the same.

    As a people we haven’t achieved the academic succes that allows us to mock education! I am not one of the multitudes of people who rely on Tyler Perry to “take us to church”, “bring us to Jesus”, or bring our fantasies to life – nor do I knock anyone who does. I simply can’t support someone, with the few entertainment dollars I have, that breathes new life into black male/female relationships, fidelity and family [stereotypes] that need to die. Everybody has a right to tell their story however they want to, I wouldn’t dare try to tell him to change a thing. I would however tell him why he doesn’t impress me anymore. He couldn’t care less about my $9.50 & if I was him I wouldn’t either…but by the time it becomes $9 million 500 thousand it will be too late.

  7. As a young woman living with this virus, I’m deeply offended. Having HIV doesnt make you a bad person. Unfortunately, I contracted it from my ex who was unfaithful to me. Ny diagnosis didn’t end my life. I have a beautiful son who’s negative, a boyfriend who loves me & accepts my son as his own, & I’m still me. I take responsibility for my diagnosis because I shouldve known better, but there are those who have it from birth, blood transfusions, occupational exposure, cheating spouse. Its unfair to condemn those who really had no control. HIV isnt a punishment from God. I don’t feel like I’m being punished. God has blessed me because I’m still here & can inspire someone so they can avoid the same mistakes I did

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