The documentary 5B is an extremely powerful piece of media. I have watched the film How to Survive a Plague, which is also about the epidemic, specifically AIDS activist groups, but I did not find it as impactful as 5B. I believe having the same nurses who worked on ward 5B speak to their experience, while also showing raw footage of their efforts during the outbreak, provides an element of reality to the film and forces viewers to recognize just how devastating the epidemic truly was.
One piece of information I found upsetting and had not considered prior to watching was how insurance providers responded to AIDS and the stigmas surrounding the disease. The film briefly mentions how insurance companies could not ask policy holders to disclose their sexuality, but providers instead sent out questionnaires to people, specifically men, who applied for coverage during the epidemic. These surveys asked questions such as “have you worked as a florist, hairdresser, etc.” in an attempt to judge masculinity and avoid providing coverage to homosexual men. Insurance companies added another layer of discrimination to an already marginalized group and perpetuated patient suffering by inducing the stress of an economic burden. It was stated in the film that it “is important for human beings to be there for one another,” and this truth extends beyond our immediate community and applies to corporations like insurance providers who are huge actors in an individual’s ability to manage sickness and disease.
In our current outbreak, Krispy Kreme has decided to provide healthcare workers with free doughnuts every Monday until the middle of May. Although doughnuts cannot cure COVID-19 or help with the main issues at hand, the company’s gesture sets an example and highlights how we all should be appreciating healthcare workers and doing what we can to help them help others. In Professor Thrailkill’s lecture, she explained how in the absence of a cure, care is an essential task. Care can take many forms, whether it is through pastries, in a hospital, or over Zoom, but no matter how we experience care, it is central to share during these uncertain times.