Ward 5B Adam4Adam_edited

Watch This: A Glimpse of Our Compassionate Heroes in Ward “5B”

(Photo Credits: Screengrab from 5B Film’s YouTube Account)

When people were consumed by fear, a few heroes showed the world the power of human touch.

Hey, guys! You might want to watch this film titled 5B (Paul Haggis, Dan Krauss), it is currently in theaters and you can purchase tickets and check the cinema movie schedule near you here.

The title of the film, 5B, refers to a ward unit established by nurses in 1983—during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—on the 5th floor of San Francisco General Hospital. Reportedly, it was “designed specifically to treat HIV/AIDS patients” and is the first of its kind in the United States. The ward operated up until 2003.    

This documentary is about the “remarkable story of courage and compassion from the heroes of San Francisco General’s Ward 5B” told through the eyes of the nurses, doctors, their surviving patients and their loved ones as well as the “staff who volunteered to create care practices based in humanity and holistic well-being during a time of great uncertainty.”

People reported that one of the patients who appeared in the film named Steve Williams said, “The nurses at San Francisco General do such a wonderful job. They’re not afraid to touch you.” Williams fell in love with his nurse, Guy Vandenburg, and vice versa. Now married, the couple survived the challenges of those tough times and to say that it was tough is an understatement as Williams’ condition at one point “grew dire,” dire enough that he slipped into a coma.        

Vandenburg said to People, “I’m standing here for all the people who are no longer with us and for all the people who are still alive but can’t be here. Nurses, patients, activists, people who treat other people with respect and dignity and love.”

On another note, Los Angeles Times described the film as a “tough, vital lesson in love, valor and compassion” on the one hand and on the other, “a somber, evocative reminder of that devastating yet galvanizing era.” 

Indeed, Ward 5B is “not just a place; it’s a story of hope and courage.”

There are 5 comments

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  1. Nathan

    Nathan writes:

    Ward5B is a testament to those who served/serve. I can and will attest to what was portrayed.

    It is what we do when called upon to serve…be it a military or a civilian uniform. In the end, the servitude needs no further explanation.

  2. bjjj

    So many people today still avoid those with HIV and AIDs like the plague. Although today there are so many options that they can live a normal long life as anyone else. No one is going to get HIV by a simple touch, kiss, sneeze, cough, etc. And having sex isn’t ruled out either, as with PreP, although probably not perfect, the risk is very very low. The biggest problem is the social stigma. HIV is just another virus, and eventually they will find an actual cure that is effective and affordable. People need to accept each other for whom they are, regardless of their health problems, and other differences as well. 5B sounds like a very interesting documentary. Can’t wait to see it.

  3. Libertarian Queer

    I well remember those years. Enough so that I probably won’t watch the show because i’ve already seen the real deal. The despair, frailty, pain, and death. It was horrible in the first years; just helplessly watching people die while the medical community had no tools to stop it. Hospices were set up in an ad hoc fashion to accomodate the afflicted. I lost some lovers to it yet somehow remained HIV free. Later on it was still horrible even when the first antivirals came out; some were just too far gone. Now it seems passe’ by comparison and HIV is considered inconsequential by some. Some guys don’t realize that all it takes is one societal or financial calamity to the point where medical supplies get cut off for a while and they’re dead as a doornail. Let’s make no mistake. HIV/AIDS is still a potential death sentence for some if not all. Especially when one considers that their dependence on others keeps them alive and what could happen if that supply chain is disrupted for a period of time. The financial cost is tremendous, too. Use those condoms, guys. You must not depend on others for your own well being as history has shown that to be folly time and time again.

  4. Nathan


    I agree with you 100%.

    We have told females that they should not go to bed with a male who refuses to wear a condom, and that same realization should be practiced by our fellow Gay and Bi males as well.

    In a Democracy, it is the right of the individual to do as he sees fit, but when such an individual makes an insane choice, he must abide by the consequences of his choice.

    Democracy is a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways. Responsibility is not the sole domain of the Heterosexual; it is, also, the domain of the Homosexual as well.

    What you wrote is reality and reality, as we both know, does not sit well amongst us.

  5. Dalton

    This was not only a problem for hospital workers but for first responders. I was a Paramedic in the bay area. Not only was the phobia at the hospitals but it made its way into public service first responders, paramedics, fire department, police officers. I am not picking on all Fire Fighters saying this, but most at the time. They didn’t follow me running into the burning building (I am using the example of a burning building) of an aids patient that simply called for help. The 911 dispatchers were no different, they spoke a code language that came over the radio “use universal precautions.” Utter bull shit for that to come over the dispatch radio, paramedics use universal precautions on everyone, a simple pair of gloves. But several times I arrived the same time the fire truck arrived, cops too. Only because I heard the lame “use universal precautions” code language I purposefully would NOT put my gloves on until I reached the patient. The firemen would stay at their truck, they would remind me about what type of call I am responding to, they would say if you need help to let us know. and they would stay outside by their fire truck… I would remind them, this is a burning building, or a crazy incident where we run into while people are running out, TREAT IT THE SAME! Stubborn, hey would not go in, I went in with NO GLOVES just to make a point. Obviously, if there were body fluids present I would glove up. Most of the time the patient just didn’t feel well and the only reason they called was for a little help in their time of despair, they had no one else to turn to, they didn’t know what to do but they knew the paramedics would. I would summons a firefighter at his truck and tell them I need help, ONLY to get their ass in the door and teach them a lesson. I told them to pick up the 90-pound patient and put him on my gurney. Begrungely they did it , they would not make a scene in front of a citizen that pays their salary. How did I approach an aids patient, I would introduce myself and shake the patients hand with NO GLOVES. I would take blood pressure with NO GLOVES, they deserved dignity because they were treated like shit by everyone else. I’ll never forget this one frail aids patient that called 911 often, knew him by name and I always jump that call if I was close enough to take it, usually a code 2 call, no lights, and siren. I would reach his house, get to his side, never had my gloves on, and he would always call me by my name, he would say “be careful, you should not touch me without gloves, I don’t want you to get sick like me.” I reminded him I will be just fine; if I got ill in any way, I would have got ill while giving this man the dignity he deserved. There were reports saying you will not get aids by touching a person, but people didn’t believe it. This was a full blown aids patient more concerned about my well being versus his….crazy to believe him thinking like that. After a while and while on duty, I noticed no calls were coming in from this patient home. I decided to do a drive-by, a wellness check. I arrived, his roommate said he had died. It wasn’t the greatest news to hear, it was going to happen, I felt bad, In my head, I always thought if 911 was called and he was a full code I wanted to be there and just hold his hand with no glove on. I asked his roommate was he alone, his roommate said he was by his side, he knew me, he said I held his hand while he stopped breathing, he said a few of his friends were there and he jokingly said, there were no gloves. I am sure the first responder phobia was in many other cities, I always hope there were some that treated this type of call like any other call we run into while others run out, didn’t make sense to me that they would not run into these homes, I guess they wanted to see real fire.

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