Wilhemina's War

A film by June Cross

US | 2015 | 53 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 161182 |


In much of America, progress in HIV/AIDS treatment suggests the worst is behind us, but every year 50,000 Americans are still diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS. Astonishingly, it’s one of the leading causes of death of African American women. And nearly half of the Americans with HIV live in the South, where the AIDS epidemic has taken root in rural communities. WILHEMINA’S WAR is an intimate, personal narrative that tells the story of one family’s struggle with HIV over the course of five years. Despite facing institutional and personal obstacles every step of the way, 62-year-old Wilhemina Dixon works tirelessly to combat the stigma and care for her daughter and granddaughter, both HIV-positive.

Emmy award winning journalist and Professor June Cross finds Wilhemina, a one woman army fighting against a systemic dehumanization that’s the result of centuries of racism, and lack of access to drugs and treatment. Her story touches upon many of the structural issues that contribute to the alarming rising trend of HIV-positive women in the South: lack of education, lack of access to quality healthcare, lack of transportation, and silence and stigma in the local church congregations. This urgent documentary lays bare the intersection of poverty, race and politics with women’s health and security in the rural south, while showing determination in the face of adversity, and the triumph of the human spirit. Essential viewing for African-American Studies and Public Health courses.


“WILHEMINA’S WAR is a poignant, eye-opening documentary that truly sheds light on the ongoing struggles we face in combatting HIV stigma and the lingering barriers that prevent people living with AIDS from accessing care and treatment.”

Cynthia Davis, Chair AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Board of Directors

“Filmmaker June Cross does a brilliant job of seamlessly weaving the personal stories of courage in the face of tragedy, with the important task of providing accurate information about the social and political context in which the AIDS epidemic is growing.”

Gloria Ayee Ph.D. Candidate Department of Political Science at Duke University

“Eye-opening film."

Charleston Chronicle

"A TV highlight."

The Washington Post

"Eye-opening…a much needed call to action...shines a light on a population often ignored by the AIDS film canon."

Hello Beautiful

“The film investigates the difficult intersection of health policy and personal responsibility."

The Atlantic

“With statistics continuing to indicate that African American women constitute 65% of women diagnosed with HIV… it is important to share the powerful message of Wilhemina’s War, which continues to shed light on the struggles of HIV throughout the South…”

Imara Canady, AIDS Healthcare Foundation


  • Best Documentary, Reel Sisters Film Festival
  • Doc NYC
  • Black Hollywood African American Film Festival
  • Pan African American Film Festival
  • Ethnografilm Festival, Paris


June Cross

June Cross is a writer and documentary producer who covers the intersection of poverty, race and politics in the United States. She has been a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York since 2006. She founded a program in documentary there that is celebrating its fifth year. She just finished Wilhemina’s War, a documentary about women caring for those living with HIV in South Carolina. Her last documentary, "The Old Man and the Storm," followed an extended New Orleans family as they struggled to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Katrina. It aired on PBS’ "Frontline" in early 2009.

Cross began her reporting career at The Press of Atlantic City, and was a freelancer for The Boston Globe before beginning her career in television at WGBH-TV in Boston. She moved to PBS’ NewHour, where she became a producer/correspondent and won her first Emmy for her coverage of the 1993 invasion of Grenada. She joined CBS News in 1986, and was a producer for West 57th, Face to Face with Connie Chung, and the CBS Evening News. She then joined PBS’ Frontline, where she produced eight documentaries and served as senior producer for five others. "Secret Daughter," an autobiographical film that she directed while at Frontline that examined how race and color had impacted her own family, won an Emmy and a duPont-Columbia Journalism in 1997. That film became the basis for a book, "Secret Daughter" published by Viking in 2006. She left Frontline in 1999 to join the storied Blackside, Inc., creator of “Eyes on the Prize. There, she became an executive producer for "This Far by Faith," a six-hour series on the African-American religious experience that aired on Pubic Television in 2003, and which led to the founding of her own production company. She has been a fellow at Columbia’s Institute for Research in Afro-American Studies, at Carnegie-Mellon University’s School of Urban and Public Affairs and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Studies at Harvard. She lives in New York City with her partner, the jazz drummer Mike Clark. She received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Knox College in Illinois in 2015. (2/16)


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