Matt Pais, RedEye's movie critic, and Ernest Wilkins review 'Thor: The Dark World' and 'Dallas Buyers Club' in this week's episode of 'Good! Or What?'

The other day I was at the theater with one of my best girlfriends watching "Dallas Buyers Club," the newest HIV film on the block.

Within the first 10 minutes I got lightheaded, but I remained in my seat. Then as images of HIV/AIDS patients passed by and moments of drug use filled the screen, I finally took a break for a quick walk outside the theatre.

After I got some water and air and calmed down some, I returned to my seat. Tori, the best girlfriend, whispered, "You OK?" and I nodded. But really I felt more yes/no and whispered, "These movies are always hard. They make me think about my grandmother."

The next couple of hours weren't easy, and when the movie stopped, my brain didn't. All of my personal experiences with HIV/AIDS started playing in my head—no admission ticket needed.

You see, even though it's been years since my grandmother died from AIDS, I get messed up a little when seeing scenes depicting positive people in hospitals, largely because the last time I saw her was on her deathbed. Since her immune system was so compromised, and I was a kid, I couldn't even touch her to say goodbye—one germ from me could have made her so much worse.

It has gotten better each year since that last time I saw her, but there have been bumps—big ones, even—all related to HIV/AIDS.

Bump one: My uncle died a few years after my grandmother of complications from AIDS. Bump two: A close friend in college was diagnosed. Bumps three, four, five and more: I became a certified HIV counselor and began working with young people as young as 12 who were affected by HIV, thus dealing with it almost every day in some way.

During my relatively short life, I have seen HIV/AIDS in many different lights and have been asked lots of questions regarding the virus. One question I surprisingly hear a lot: So, is HIV still even a problem? And each time I respond: Of course. It's still a HUGE problem. Then I probably spout off some HIV-related facts.

Facts like these: According to the World Health Organization, 35.3 million people were living with HIV across the globe in 2012, with 1 in 5 people who are positive in America unaware of their status, according to aids.gov. And HIV still is the world's leading infectious disease.

As we observe World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, it's important to remember the history of the virus, which "Dallas Buyers Club" showcases quite well, while also understanding that HIV/AIDS isn't something that happened only during the years focused on by the "Dallas Buyers Club" and other major films about HIV/AIDS.

It is something that millions of people deal with every day. Sure, it is much better for some positive folks around the world, but we still have not found a cure or gotten everyone adequate access to health care to help extend their lives.

The fight isn't done, and there are millions of us out there who may not be directly affected by the virus, but who can work to help end HIV/AIDS in our own ways, every day.

And to the millions out there who are living every day with HIV or AIDS, and to the millions we have lost: This day is a celebration of all of you.

Zach Stafford is a RedEye special contributor. Visit aids.gov for more information on the fight against HIV/AIDS.

 

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