How to Survive a Plague Looks at History of HIV/AIDS Struggle
February 28, 2013
The documentary How to Survive a Plague was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, and though it didn’t win, it is an emotionally powerful film. Within the first five minutes of the film, you’re taken back to the 1980s and the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The film focuses on two activist organizations, ACT-UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), and how they protested to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to get political leaders, the medical community, pharmaceutical companies and even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do something about people dying from complications of AIDS. The protests that were included in the film truly inspired me and even brought me to tears. The footage of people being arrested, screaming and pumping their fists for the survival of themselves and their loved ones was raw and emotional.
In the 80s and 90s, being diagnosed with HIV or AIDS automatically meant you had maybe two more years to live, if not less. This was shocking to me, because back then, getting HIV or being diagnosed with AIDS meant you had no chance at survival. People that were infected with the virus didn’t have proper medication to take care of their illness or were waiting for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve drugs that could help them.
Although there is no cure yet for HIV, I realized that we’ve come a long way since the 80s in terms of treating HIV. We have new medications that can treat HIV and make it virtually undetectable. And HIV is no longer seen as a virus that affects only the gay community. The stigma and hatred aimed at gay men living with HIV/AIDS was awful in the 1980s and 90s, and while there is still stigma aimed at people—gay and heterosexual—who are HIV positive, we are more accepting today.
See How to Survive a Plague, and you’ll definitely come away moved by the work of these early protesters, more informed about the struggle and appreciative of the strives they made.