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The Arts and Medicine
April 4, 2017

How to Survive a Plague: The Next Great HIV/AIDS History

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of California San Francisco, AIDS Research Institute
JAMA. 2017;317(13):1298-1299. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.1325

In 2012, the documentary How to Survive a Plague about the early AIDS epidemic was released to wide acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Directed, co-written, and co-produced by David France, an investigative reporter and gay man who lived through the epidemic in New York City of the 1980s and 1990s and whose writing focuses on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues, it told the story of AIDS activism in New York City in the pre-HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) era. Using video footage of meetings and demonstrations and interviews with principals of the movement, the film introduces the viewer to vivid characters who mobilized social services for dying patients with AIDS and prodded cautious Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials to listen to patients and speed their drug evaluation and approval process.

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