Ethan Millard talks to Amanda Stoddard and Jared Ruga, two of the filmmakers behind a documentary called "Quiet Heroes" that has its roots in Utah history. It centers on two medical professionals who defied social conventions and stigma to treat patients with the then-relatively unknown disease of HIV/AIDS in Salt Lake City.
Dr. Kristen Ries, an infectious-disease specialist, arrived in Utah on June 5, 1981—the same day the Centers for Disease Control first published a report on what would become known as AIDS. Because of stigma and fear surrounding both AIDS and homosexuality, Ries and her eventual partner, physician assistant Maggie Snyder, became the only medical professionals in Utah willing to treat the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS. These patients, facing certain death in the early years of the epidemic, often had to keep their status a secret or risk ostracism from their families, workplaces, and religious communities.
Chronicles of the AIDS epidemic have tended to focus on cities with large gay populations, like New York and San Francisco. Quiet Heroes instead reveals the impact of the disease on a less obvious, more conservative location—one that perhaps better mirrored the rest of the country at the time—as it shares the evocative story of these unheralded caregivers and their patients.