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Faced with their own mortality, an improbable group of mostly HIV-positive young men and women broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. 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. Blisteringly powerful, How to Survive a Plague transports us back to a vital time of unbridled death, political indifference, and staggering resilience and constructs a commanding archetype for activism today
Arriving in NYC in 1982 I started to work in film and theater. Right around then people started getting sick and no one really knew what was going on. People I knew faded away and died. Years of horror unfolded as the magnitude of the plague became more and more apparent. This powerful film brought back lots of memories of NYC in the 80s, a sometimes dark and dangerous place, and showed how a population had to struggle to live. How to Survive a Plague? Endure. Fight. Grieve. Fight.