How to Survive a Plague


When no one is willing to solve a major problem that concerns you, the best thing to do is to take it upon yourself to do so. 

Peter Staley and the Aids activists did just that. They took the initiative to shed light on a critical issue that was ignored at the time. The documentary “How to Survive a Plague” presents the hard-fought journey of Act Up and TAG, organizations created in the 1980’s to address the negligence of Aids victims and spearhead improved efforts to find a cure for the disease.

Led by Larry Kramer, Act Up involved numerous Aids activists who were ostracised by society and deprived of effective solutions. Despite facing strong homophobic opposition, the Act Up/TAG movement worked to advance the treatment of what was then seen as a plague.

Using a lo-fi format, director David France carries the DIY aspect throughout; from the early movement to the footage of the events that ensued. The organic outlook on Act Up and TAG’s mission shows how independent and self-motivated the members were to move things forward. With authority figures in politics and medicine as well as much of society avoiding the issue, the Act Up/TAG activists fought a long battle just to get their voices heard, because their silence in turn meant death.

This documentary condenses the entire movement while sufficiently examining the different aspects of it. The political, health, and social matters surrounding the issue are taken into consideration, including clips of speeches and interviews with various political leaders, scientists, and the activists.

Most notably, the members put forth the means to develop new medications needed to subside the symptoms without any prior knowledge of pharmaceuticals. Their ability to provide vast improvements in Aids treatment along with their activism left a lasting impression on the future of the epidemic.

How To Survive A Plague is out on DVD from the 31st March