howtosurviveaplague_aidsribbonOn Friday, November 30, I attended a special showing of the documentary “How to survive a plague”, shown in Fresno.  Using archival video, the film showcases the efforts of ACT UP and TAG during the early years in the battle against AIDS.

I think what amazes me the most is how much of this battle I was oblivious to, even though I was a young adult at the time.  I recognized some of the media coverage of events from having seen it on television while it was happening, but I was unaware, even as recently as Thursday last, that most of the impetuous that drove research was due to pressure imposed by these groups.

Presented in a chronological progression, the challenges faced by those infected, as the community struggled to deal with this mysterious new killer, are laid out for the viewer.  The continuing dismissal by those in power of the victims of this illness, the slow movement in funding and research as the death toll climbed, and the clear impression given by many that those infected with HIV simply got what they deserved, are all things of which I was aware.

What I didn’t know, and now completely changes my outlook on a history that I lived through, is how the protests and actions of ACT UP and TAG were instrumental in forcing government and the pharmaceutical industry to respond.  It becomes clear that thousands, hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions more would have died without the concerted efforts of a relatively few people, many of whom were also suffering from AIDS.