In the 13 years since the landmark film Philadelphia, few other mainstream American movies have tackled HIV. On December 1, World AIDS Day, the genre rebounds, as 3 Needles—starring Stockard Channing, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh and Chloë Sevigny—hits theaters. The brilliant cast plays out three global plotlines: A Canadian porn star uses his father’s blood to pass industry HIV tests; a Chinese woman is roped into an illegal blood-collection ring; and three nuns try to save an AIDS-ravaged South African village. Writer/director Thom Fitzgerald, 38, gave POZ a private commentary track:

Why don’t more films focus on the global epidemic?

Movies and important issues don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I’m negative, but as a queer guy, AIDS is a huge part of my identity. A lot of movies have gay people with AIDS because gay people make movies. But other people around the world, who are facing HIV in the biggest numbers, just don’t have a media voice.

So why did you label the plots “The Christians,” “The Buddhists” and “The Pagans”?

Like God, HIV is invisible. Our ancestry and culture give them both a face. So the virus looks completely different in different places. We don’t recognize it as the same problem, so we don’t come together to fight it.

Yet, each plotline involves somewhat willful transmission.

I used to espouse that all positive people are innocent victims, but admitting that people can willingly hurt other people and that education can’t solve everything will help eventually stem the epidemic.