Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to Survive a Plague

Writes Roger Ebert: The two years before the 1996 discovery of a more effective AIDS-fighting drug combination were, a survivor recalls, "a dark time." Nothing seemed to be working. After the disease was first identified in 1981, there were a few moments of hope, like the drug AZT, which had good results for a month and then stopped working. AIDS activists in ACT UP and other groups pressed for more urgent testing of promising drugs, but none seemed to be successful and some even caused blindness, as the disease continued its relentless and invariably fatal spread.

Then, miraculously, a cocktail of several drugs, including AZT, was tried along with protease inhibitors that prolonged its effectiveness. One of the survivors of that time recalls it in David France's documentary "How to Survive a Plague." Symptoms seemed to reverse themselves. Cancerous skin lesions disappeared. Patients began to gain weight. Within a month, blood counts were near normal, and health seemed to be restored. Many found it hard to believe, and still today feel some guilt that they are alive while millions around the world have died.

The documentary charts the rise of the AIDS crisis from its earliest days. It benefits enormously by a wealth of video footage taken by ACT UP and other groups, showing urgent meetings of victims, who demonstrated and even demanded arrest outside federal and municipal buildings and hospitals.
More here.

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