I'm a nurse who just retired from San Francisco General, and this documentary brought back some of my most vivid memories of the AIDS years. I was waiting to take my nursing boards when AIDS first struck, and I went to work as a hospice nurse for Shanti. Like the nurses in this incredible film, we worked 12-hour shifts taking care of patients who lived - and finally died - together in houses. We knew nothing about how the disease was spread, and I often came home and was afraid that I had contracted it from cleaning up so many bodily fluids. But we kept working and taking care of these very brave, terrified guys because no one else would. Why hasn't this film had more exposure? I didn't even know this film had been made. I know three of the people in this documentary from my involvement as a shop steward for SEIU, and I haven't been able to shake it after seeing it three days ago. I lost my partner and so many friends during those years, and I realized watching this that the scars I have will probably never go away. It was a time of incredible despair, fear and loss. Thank God for this film, thank God for these wonderful people, thank God for San Francisco General Hospital. I've worked as a psychiatric nurse there for 23 years, and I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to do so.
At the heart of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, a single number and letter designated a ward on the fifth floor of San Francisco General Hospital, the first in the country designed specifically to treat AIDS patients. The unit's nurses' and caregivers' emphasis on humanity and consideration of holistic well-being created a new standard of care in a time of great uncertainty.—5B Rep
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