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How to Survive a Plague 2012
7.2 of 10

How to Survive a Plague

SD 7.60 110 min
Largely through archive footage much of it home shot video, the work of a group of Greenwich Village based AIDS activists, most associated with ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), from 1987 to 1996, arguably the height of the AIDS epidemic in terms of the number of fatalities the result of the virus, is presented. New York City was seen as the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic then. Most of the activists highlighted have AIDS and thus their fight is one of survival during an era where an AIDS diagnosis was seen as a death sentence. They faced an uphill battle in what is largely inaction - due to fear, excessive protocol and/or just not really caring in AIDS primarily affecting who are already a marginalized population, gay men - by those who could make a difference, including front line workers, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and non-government organizations, but especially politicians, most of the blame placed at the feet of all three Presidents who occupied the White House during this time, as well as North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms who was openly hostile toward the gay population. Another group which placed an obstacle to a solution to the overall health crisis was the Roman Catholic Church who believed the use of condoms, which was discovered to reduce the risk of virus transmission, was immoral. Much of the focus of this documentary is the fight for potentially life saving drugs, which were not available legally in the US. Because of this inaction, the activists had to become the experts, far more knowledgeable than many of those dealing with the issue professionally were. ACT UP itself was not without it problems, it which as an organization becoming fractured due to infighting in the early 1990s. As an epilogue to the story, many of the surviving activists - others who had died from AIDS during that era - talk about the change that happened in 1996 and what their lives were like after that change.

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