How To Survive A Plague

August 14, 2012

If the chills I got watching the trailer for the new (and very buzzed about) documentary How To Survive A Plague are any indication, this movie is going to be extremely emotional, powerful, and ultimately wrenching.

"How To Survive A Plague is the story of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making."

The film opens September 21 in select cites and is a stunning and inspirational account of the early days of this disease and why we all need to stand up and fight.

Tags: Documentaries, HIV/AIDS, Film
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Post written by RobHeartsDH (View Author Profile)
About this author: Rob lives in Manhattan with his black pug Riley. When he’s not thinking about daddies, he enjoys writing, eating burritos, watching copious amounts of television, and thinking about his next meal.
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I applaud the recognition of what we went through in those early days. I have been telling this story for many years now.

I second the above comment. I was in "my prime" in these years, watching thousands of beautiful men get sick and die, and Reagan/Bush did NOTHING to stop it.
The purveyors of the new genocide against us knew exactly what they were doing.

But we refused to go quietly into that horrible "night." We organized, we blocked traffic, we shut down government buildings, we made it very clear that we were not going to shut up and go away.

Kudos to Larry Kramer whose voice articulated our sentiments, Action equals life, Silence equals death.

If you want to read a REALLY interesting book on the probable origins of HIV, check out "AIDS And The Doctors of Death" by Alan Cantwell, Jr. M.D. It's available from Aries Rising Press. HIV did not come from Africa, or green monkeys, and this is the book that explains what REALLY happened, all based on medical journal articles, etc.

Ed Garren, MFT
Los Angeles, CA

Don't believe everything you read.

Looks like a powerful doc and a must see. Still waiting for some brave documentarian to tell the story of those of us who survived not only HIV, but the horrendous side effects of the long term use of some of the earliest treatments. Some of these are no longer being used at all, and with reason: they disfigured many of those using them. Some people had to quit working and dropped out of the public arena altogether; others became "frequent flyers" with plastic surgeons; and others sadly opted out of life altogether. This was the price many paid for being compliant, vigilant, tough, or just plain lucky enough to survive for years with HIV, and as such they deserve recognition as well. Sorry to digress, as I am prone to do. I love great docs, and am looking forward to seeing How to Survive a Plague.

Dr. Cantwell, Jr. is very correct in his assessment of the origins of the humo-immune deficiency virus. Nj9dick is also correct that one should not buy everything you read. Not from the far right nor the far left. For over 30 years this fight to find a cure has been plaguing this entire planet on one level or another and millions have sacrificed their time, their courage, their compassion, their very lives so that the ultimate war will be won. Each battle has been a bitch. I know, I have been in the trenches for over 30 years, buried hundreds and hundreds of my own family and friends due to this virus and the effects caused from the trial drugs. Today the pandemic is still alive, however thanks to the efforts of scientists, doctors, patients and care providers, living positive is a definite life style change, yet a life now filled with hope instead of total early death despair. We must keep marching forward for the salvation of our own lives, our family, our friends and our community of humanity. The youth of today must be educated on the history of this fight, the effects of unsafe sexual practices and be nurtured to be healthy role model leaders of tomorrow. Kudos to David France for his willingness to bring some light into the darkness of insanity and misconception.

I have seen this plague from the beginning when I started loosing what would turn out to be over 1200 friends from 1983 -- 1995 the 80's was one depressing decade for me. I remember my friends with those legions on them the night sweats, fevers and no treatment at all. Some died in 3 months some in six months. There were AIDS houses back then were doctors made them comfortable and gave them the choice to opt out. I want to see the day this plague is wiped off the face of the earth. I want to see the day no one ever has to died from AIDS ever again.

My cousin in Jersey City was a really fun nice guy. He had a lover and was openly gay suddenly Bill came down with pneumonia and was seriously I'll, his health never fully returned and he just got worse, had many physical problems, waisting away Now that I look back, having seen friends die from Aids, I remember cousin Billy who was so handsome, full of life and so out, gay and beautiful. He lived life full tilt He died in 1960 aged 29 of aids of that I am very certain! I wanted to share this with you all!! I think it has been with us for a very long time! Reseachers should look back in time. I will never forget how he looked toward the end and I am convinced as to what destroyed his beautiful body, life and soul! Love to All!

This is a tough one. It started for me in 79 when I lost my first friend to this disease. I suspect this is where my infection came from. In 1980 I moved to NYC--it was a rumor, then quickly a Tsunami of death that lasted years. Pneumocystis killed in a matter of days. Often many a week. Sleeping under hospital beds..Families often didn't have time to come and sadly, more often when they did have the time, they chose not to--Fear, Disgust -- Abandoned to die alone. We as Gay Men and Women did not let that happen...We showed up.

Nurses wore what I remember looking like space suits. Wards full of dying young men. We didn't know how to touch each other. Information on how the disease was spread leaked out so slowly-- but we held each other in our grief--in the knowing that this wasn't stopping and that we were watching exactly what was about to happen to us.

For some of us it didn't happen that way. I left NYC in 1993 (alone, having just buried my partner of 15 years) and to this day avoid NY--so many Ghosts, so much love lost.

Personally I do not think the general public wants to see this and I am not so sure the gay "community" really wants to look at it either. Where is talk of this Plague now as we make huge leaps politically. I find this particularly unfortunate as I watch us conform to a hetero evidence based dysfunctional model--not at all the message of ACT UP.

Celebrating Gay Pride Month, this year, Huffington Post blogger Marlo Thomas wrote about our history from Stonewall through today without even mentioning AIDS.

I have watched this Plague bring us together and then over the years, tear us apart. And I have watched it be ignored more times that I have liked.

Thank you for making a movie about this enormously important time in our history.

Personally I am proud to be part of a group of people who have had the strength to live these past 30+ years and thrive, losing every one they loved, all the while facing the ever persistent very real threat of our own death from this illness. I think this speaks volumes of who we can be as people-our potential seems endless.

Aids put Homosexuality on the map. Aids put Fag and Compassion in the same sentence. Aids made the world look at all Gay people differently. Today we are reaping the benefits of what our anger brought about back then. Oddly in our community, rather than using the experience of this Plague to inform us, expand our humanity, deepen our compassion.., the stigma around having this illness, in our community, has increased dramatically...just my personal experience.

Finally, I find it interesting that this is being framed in the context of our history (even I do it), as well as the title-"How to Survive a Plague". The Plague is not over, no, not even for Gay men. Why do we talk like it is?

This looks amazing. As a 21 year old trying to connect with my gay identity it's things like this that makes me understand and feel strong and happy as a gay man. Can't wait to see this.

Wow. It's so heartening to hear all these thoughtful comments on a sex/dating site. I have lived in San Francisco for 38 years and have bid a sobbing goodby to many wonderful men who should have had 30 or 40 years more on this earth. Yes, AIDS was a catastrophe for gay men, and, because it was ignored, a catastrophe for the world. But for all of our heroism in changing the course of the epidemic, I often think gay men didn't learn all the valuable lessons we could have. Bars and sex clubs are STILL the primary "community" centers for us. We STILL treat each other like objects as often as not. Youth and good looks are still the lingua franca of a community that experience had perfectly positioned to teach the world the exquisite privilege of being happy with one's true self and surviving to old age with confidence and gratitude. We passed up a chance to teach the world how to live after surviving a castrophe. Sure, I love meeting hot guys over a cold beer as much as anyone, and yet I fault the bars, really, for decades of taking our money while squandering our attention, and entertaining our most shallow impulses while burning through our potential (and our health). They could have provided so much more in the way of fighting lingering racism among white gay men, improving respect for the lesbian community (which rallied for us around AIDS like we have never rallied to their issues) and integrating young and older men into a healthier community. In my opinion, the bar owners generally have a lot of wasted lives and unrealized dreams to account for.

It's absolutely a MUST SEE film.

I've read all the comments and applaud all of the men that took the time to tell their stories so eloquently. We are so much better educated now about the disease. Let's
take personal responsibility for our actions to stop this disease and the other STDs that are so prevalent in our community.

I went to every rally and protest I could. I still can't believe people are having unsafe sex - YOUNG PEOPLE at that. We've lost too many gifted members of our community to this. I get furious when I see new cases of HIV in our community - particularly those in their 20s and 30s.

I just don't get the dis-connect and continued lack of education on the subject.

i lived thru it.........enough said.

I'll tell you one very good reason why so many young gay men continue to not play safe and convert to positive. They are surrounded by deceitful drug company advertisements that make it look like it's no big deal, you just have to take a pill once in a while. And guess what, the more young gay men that they can convince of this attitude, the more clients they have down the road to sell their 'cures' to.

It's fucked up. Gay media should not accept these advertisements of beautiful, healthy HIV positive men, kept that way by the drug companies little high priced pills.