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Tahoe AIDS video receives widespread recognition

Cory Fisher

Dee, Jennifer and Nanette may look like people you’ve known or have seen at the post office or grocery store.

The three – all of whom have lived in South Lake Tahoe at one time or another – were well along their career paths at the time they discovered they were HIV positive.

“All of them were heterosexually infected from boyfriends – in relationships,” said Chuck Newport, Health Education Coordinator for the El Dorado Public Health Department. “Fifty percent of new infections in women are from men they know and are – or were – in a relationship with.”

The stories of Dee, Jennifer and Nanette are the focus of “She Didn’t Know,” a locally produced AIDS education video that is now in the process of being distributed nationwide and internationally.

“Rural areas are often not targeted for AIDS education campaigns,” said Newport. “We thought it was important to reach out to small towns – many people don’t believe it exists in small towns.”

The El Dorado County Public Health Dept. received an HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention grant from the state to make the video, which was taped between January and March of 1997.

“Nanette died in April (of 1997),” Newport said. “She never got to see the final product.”

Made by Tin Pan Alley Productions in Meyers, the video was originally intended for statewide distribution by the California AIDS Clearinghouse. Its powerful message, however, was the impetus behind a massive marketing program, extending as far as Boston, Canada, Hawaii and Mexico, Newport said. The video has been dubbed in Spanish by health department community service assistant Josefina Solano.

The featured trio were all considered “small town girls,” who talk about their ignorance regarding HIV and AIDS at the time of their infections. “I slept with him because I was drunk,” said Nanette. “I wanted to be with him … I wish I would have taken time to respect myself.”

“Alcohol lowers inhibitions,” Jennifer said. “You do stupid things you won’t do when you’re sober.”

In the video, the three also discuss the impact of HIV on their families, health and future dreams.

“Even those who have seen it several times say they still experience a feeling of tears welling up – it hits home for many,” said Sandy McDonald of Tin Pan Alley. “People say they want to share this with their daughters, co-workers or others they know – that tells us we’ve done a pretty good job.”

“These women are part of a new wave in the U.S.,” Newport said. “Formerly the focus was on intravenous drug users and gay men. Now we’re starting to look more like the rest of the world statistically. By the year 2000, one half of those infected in the U.S. will be women.”

A portion of the proceeds from “She Didn’t Know” will go to Nanette’s memorial fund, which will finance related projects in the future.

When Jennifer asked her doctor why it took so long for him to suggest an AIDS test, he told her, “You don’t fit the bill – you’re from a good family, have a decent job, you’re white, you don’t do drugs and you’re from a small town,” she said. “If you want to know what someone with HIV looks like, just look in the mirror.”

Don’t be misled by inaccurate stereotypes, echoes Dee. “I could be sitting on the bar stool next to you.”

To order a copy of “She Didn’t Know,” call Tin Pan Alley at (530) 577-1444. For group viewings, contact Chuck Newport at (530)573-3159.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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