The film shares an intimate portrait of a group of Romanian young adults living with HIV and their efforts to integrate into society, marry, have families and embark on successful careers. They are heroes with inspiring stories that demonstrate triumph in the face of remarkable challenges.
In 1989, as communism fell across Eastern Europe, doctors and nurses in Romania discovered they were dealing with an epidemic of pediatric AIDS in their hospitals and institutions.
"After the Fall: HIV Grows Up" reveals what happened: the complicated history, the caregivers' response, and the issues and challenges the survivors now face as they come of age.
Creator/Executive Producer, Kathleen Treat, shares how she first encountered the kid's club in Romania for children infected with HIV and the journey to getting their story told.
Having lived and worked in Romania for six years in the early part of the 1990's I witnessed cruel and inhumane treatment of children. I also had the opportunity to see the impact that a family environment could have on children who had lived in institutions. Watching "After the Fall-HIV Grows Up" brought my time in Romania full circle. To hear the stories of these young adults, so self-assured, so honest, so very much at peace with themselves, was an incredibly moving experience. Watching the film I was left with a strong sense that the stories of these young Romanians provided us with important lessons that apply to other parts of the world impacted by HIV and AIDS. First, they are absolute testament to the power that a family environment can have on children. Good food, a warm home to call your own, and a community of consistent caregivers and "siblings" have provided these children with the things they needed to not only recover from the institutionalization of their early years but to triumph over it. Secondly, the film clearly shows that children with HIV grow into young adults with HIV. Adolescents have feelings and needs that involve love and sexuality and relationships. HIV does not change that fact. I think this documentary, in a very gentle way, reminds us of that and calls upon us, as caregivers, as practitioners, as policy makers to ensure that we create safe spaces where young people can express themselves and where information is provided. Finally, HIV, even twenty years into the epidemic in Romania is still surrounded by stigma and discrimination. The young adults in this film are wise beyond their years but they still feel unaccepted, feared, and alone at times. The film illustrates that despite the importance of a home, good caregivers, and an education, access to psychosocial support is a significant need and should be part of any minimum package of services. Children need more than just a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. They need to be listened to, to feel supported, and to be able to share their feelings with trusted confidantes. In conclusion, I found it delightfully ironic that the children who impacted my life so profoundly twenty years ago in Constanta, Romania, continue to remind me about the true power of children and the dignity of the human spirit. A lesson we should all be reminded of once in a while.
Kelley McCreery Bunkers
International Child Protection and Welfare Consultant