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  • Brandon MacMurray

Unexpected Review

Unexpected, Directed by: Zeberiah Newman

Meet Masonia Traylor and Ciarra “Ci Ci” Covin, two compassionate and bright mothers who have been living with HIV for 10+ years.

“Unexpected” follows Masonia and Ciarra to Atlanta, Georgia where it begins with startling facts that convey the dire situation of the local health care system.

“In Georgia we have lost 9 hospitals in the last 11 years,”

“Georgia has the highest rate of new HIV cases compared to any other state,”

“…[Georgia is] number 1 for maternal mortality…”

“Closures have left Atlanta with only one Level 1 trauma centre.”

Masonia and Ciarra’s shared experience is undeniable, as there is power in having a friend who can both understand the struggles of daily life and what it takes to go through each day with HIV. Director Zeberiah Newman captures the bond and friendship between these two effortlessly throughout the short as he switches between the disheartening facts of the situation and the difference Masonia and Ciarra are trying to make for others who find themselves on a similar journey, but without the same resources.

Ciarra was diagnosed with HIV early in life. When she asked if she will be able to have kids, the response from her doctor was: “As long as you realize that all of your kids are going to be orphans.”

Luckily, today HIV treatment has progressed significantly. The chance of perinatal transmission is less than 1% if the birthing parent takes HIV drugs and is virally suppressed.

Masonia and Ciarra's goal is clear: to help others. Through one of Masonia’s support groups they create and deliver care packages to newly-diagnosed, expecting women in an often-forgotten rural part of Georgia. The exuberance on Ciarra’s face as she talks about helping these woman says it all; she can’t wait to extend the love and power given to her from Masonia to other women in need.

A lot of women, including Masonia, find themselves in limbo within the American Health Care system. They don’t make enough to afford health insurance, but they make too much to qualify for Medicaid. This leads people like Masonia to skip doses of their costly HIV medication in order to pay less for medication and afford everyday life.

The various interviewees in this short lay out simple facts, making a great case for expanding Medicaid and better access to health care in order to achieve an end to HIV. One of the most heartbreaking facts presented is that due to systemic racism, black women are 14 times more likely to acquire HIV as compared to white women. The stigma for those with HIV is still very real and undeservingly put upon these women. Many perceive HIV as part of their identity, something that isolates them from their communities. It highlights why what Masonia and Ciarra are doing - showing love and support to those suffering through this - is so important. They are creating sisterships, safe spaces, and letting these women know that they've been in their shoes and that they are not alone.

“When you service a woman, you service a community. That's why we have to give women the tools to be healthy decision makers in their community.”

Ending with practical way to service these woman: You can access resources for women living with HIV at You can also support Masonia and Ci Ci’s network at



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