The Ithaca College Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services has held a virtual screening, viewable anytime throughout the week, of the documentary “Fauci” from November 29 to December 4. The documentary was shown to give students and community members an opportunity to learn about Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Fauci has taken on leadership roles in the response to the AIDS pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci is widely considered one of the best infectious disease experts in the country. The documentary explores his medical background, work, and recent controversy and mistrust of scientific findings and guidelines around the coronavirus.
Luca Maurer, director of the college’s LGBT center, said the documentary was chosen because of its relevance to current and historical events. He said that many students spoke to him about how the pandemic affected their lives and did not know that Fauci was a pivotal figure in the AIDS epidemic and LGBTQ+ life in the 1980s and 1990s as well.
“Looking at the past can help inform our present and our future,” Maurer said. “Especially when it comes to public health, discrimination and stigma, the AIDS epidemic and the way it unfolded in the ’80s and ’90s.”
Maurer said the center has a long history of hosting film documentaries and other events relevant to both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ communities, and he thought learning about Fauci would be relevant.
Stuart Oyach, associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, specializes in public health policy and said he has been involved in the activism and has followed and supported the work of ACT UP, which was an active group that began in 1987 and campaigned for increased medical research to help end the AIDS crisis.
Oyash said he co-taught a course with Jonathan Appleard, a professor in the history department, called the history of public health where they covered the AIDS epidemic and found that many students didn’t know much about it or what it was like during the 1980s and 1990s.
The documentary was available to watch at any time during the week, and Maurer said about 60 people signed up including alumni, faculty, staff and community members as well as students.
Jennifer Karshammer 91, a freelance journalist and member of the Ithaca Alumni Council since July 2020, said she watched the film as part of the show because she loves documentaries and wanted to learn more about the man who has been at the forefront of presenting a country with information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci is the chief medical advisor to the President of the United States and makes several press appearances to provide guidance on COVID-19.
“I think it’s a great documentary because it shows us history,” Karshammer said. “As we have made great strides on HIV and AIDS, it is important to know its origins, and how our government and society have dealt with it. And I think the same will be true for COVID.”
Karshamer said she thinks the most interesting part is the information about his work during the AIDS epidemic.
“I had no idea how long his career would be,” Karshammer said. “I thought the documentary really showed him as a real, real person.”
Oyach said he believed the documentary showed Fauci, the person who had become a cultural icon, in a positive light. According to a July 2021 study by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy, 68% of Americans said they were confident Fauci was providing trustworthy advice about COVID-19.
“He showed him as a person, not just a scientist or a doctor or a voice,” Aweesh said. “It’s possible that someone else would make another movie about Fauci and point out all the mistakes he made at some point, but that’s not what this director is doing. [was]. “
The documentary included interviews with activists who were active during the AIDS epidemic. Activists were angry at the slow rate at which research is being done to study the disease.
The first cases of gay men dying from an unknown immune disorder, now known as AIDS, were reported in 1981, and the first FDA-approved drug to treat the disease wasn’t approved until 1987, according to the Cancer Research Center. From 1981 to 1990, 100,977 deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, but gay and bisexual men were severely affected during the AIDS epidemic and in 2009 made up 61% of new HIV infections while they made up nearly 2 % of the US population, according to the CDC.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization, more than 700,000 people have died from HIV and AIDS and more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. There is still no cure or vaccine for HIV and AIDS.
Maurer said he and his peers have also been frustrated with the pace of Fauci and the government since his friends were dying.
“Some of these processes have been changed, as there is now a process that can get experimental drugs into patients’ hands much faster than they did during the 1980s,” Maurer said. “This is precisely because of the work we have done as a community…to call with Dr. Fauci and other researchers and scientists to say… [if] The drug won’t do harm, and will probably spread more quickly to people who need it years and years before the trials.”
The center will be holding a post-screening discussion led by Maurer in the coming weeks, and said it expects to facilitate intergenerational conversations for students who ask older individuals more about what their lives are like during the AIDS epidemic and what it’s like. To have a character like Fauci in the news today.
“[Fauci] He could be someone who is a scientist and someone who we felt has been an obstacle for several years and has progressed and progressed in how he does science,” Maurer said.