5B Documentary

Documentary Overview

The documentary 5B conveys an inspirational story of everyday heroes, nurses, and caregivers who took extraordinary action to comfort, protect, and care for the patients in the first AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the early 1980s. This critical moment in healthcare history is conveyed through first-person accounts from nurses and healthcare professionals who, in the absence of any existing protocols, forged a new, innovative approach to patient care that was both medically sound and humane. Johnson & Johnson commissioned this documentary to demonstrate the impact of nurses in health care and inspire the next generation of innovative nurses by showing them how nurses responded to a health crisis that ultimately became a new standard of care.

5B Trailer

Directed by Dan Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss, the documentary features firsthand accounts and commentary from the nurses, volunteers, and activists connected with 5B, including Harry Breaux, Sasha Cuttler, George Kelly, Alison Moed, Cliff Morrison, Hank Plante III, Rita Rockett, Guy Vandenberg, and Steve Williams. Click here for more information on these trailblazers and leaders in compassionate care. See also this first-person account from nurse Mary Magee whose inspiring story is chronicled in 5B.

Accessing the Documentary

Faculty looking to preview 5B, incorporate this documentary into their coursework, or stage a viewing and discussion forum with nursing students and other members of the academic nursing community may request free access to this documentary by emailing 5B@aacnnursing.org.

Johnson & Johnson is making this documentary available for instructional purposes only. Individuals wishing to view this documentary with family and friends are welcome to access it via YouTube, Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, and other streaming platforms.

Historical Perspective on HIV/AIDS

On June 5, 1981, the first published report emerged of five previously healthy young men in Los Angeles diagnosed with what would soon become known as AIDS. One year later, the first AIDS case was reported in Sub-Saharan Africa. [Source: https://hivhistory.org]

Between 1981 and 1996 when the first antiretroviral medications were available for controlling the virus, nurses provided physical and emotional care for those people infected, almost all of whom suffered and died.  Very early on, when the source and transmission of the virus were uncertain, nurses caring for AIDS patients exhibited compassion and courage.  Many were avoided by peers, unsupported by public policy and the politics of the day, yet they answered the call. Nurses fought for change in care, change in policy and social change against the stigma faced by people who had contracted the disease.

The following timelines highlight milestones in the fight against HIV/AIDS and provide the context for 5B, giving further testimony to the enormous obstacles the nurses of 5B overcame in their commitment to “doing the right thing.”

The Unbroken Chain: Three Decades of HIV/AIDS Nursing
Details on the role of nurses and the beginnings of Unit 5B in San Francisco are featured in this issue of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) newsletter, Science of Caring.

Thirty Years of AIDS: A Timeline of the Epidemic
This timeline covers the highlights over the past three decades at UCSF, in the nation and around the world.

Global HIV/AIDS Timeline
This Kaiser Family Foundation timeline reminds us of the losses, the delay in responding to the public health threat, and the political climate that stigmatized victims of the AIDS epidemic.