Director Bill Duke’s HIV whodunit, Cover, is set to hit theaters this October. Starring Vivica A. Fox, Patti LaBelle and Louis Gossett Jr., it’s the first HIV flick with a big-budget lineup since 1993’s Philadelphia—and, like that movie, was filmed there. The new film follows an African-American woman as she deals with the threat of the virus, infidelity and a murder rap. POZ pressed Duke for details:

The last AIDS character from Philadelphia was Tom Hanks’ Andrew Beckett. Did you choose Philly to highlight the changing face of the epidemic?

The mayor of Philadelphia and the governor persuaded us. They said the film’s topic related to their city and [that there was] history with the past film.

Why did you decide to make it?

One of my goddaughters has HIV. This disease is spreading in our community, and people are dying. I am not a politician or an activist, I’m a filmmaker. All I can do is put my little rock in the pond to get across.

Can you explain the title?

Our society sees AIDS as something to be ashamed of, so we cover it—with denial, not being true about our sexual identity—or keep it a secret. 

There has been criticism that down-low storylines like yours demonize gay black men.

[Cover] does not condemn anyone’s sexual behavior, it emphasizes responsibility. No matter what your preference, you have an obligation to your partner.