“How to Survive a Plague” Explores The Passion And Progress Of Early AIDS Activists

We first reported on How to Survive a Plague, the gripping documentary about the dawn of the AIDS crisis and the birth of groups like ACT UP and TAG, back when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

Now the film is getting a theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday, September 21, with a national release to follow.

Directed by David France, a journalist at the onset of the crisis, The film explores the birth of the AIDS activist movement as a desperate cadre infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry to help identify promising new treatments and speedily push them through trials and into drugstores. It’s not just an important history lesson—it’s a blueprint for changing the world.

Queerty spoke with France at Sundance about his passion for the project.: “I guess it was kind of fascinating to me that this had become a kind of ancient history,” he says. “That the ’80s needed explanation now. At some point your own story becomes history.”

Below, watch Evan Mulvihill’s interview with David France about the film, his late partner (to whom the film is dedicated) and what young gay activists can learn from his generation.


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  • Alexi3

    It is a very strange sensation to realize that there are now so many gay people who have no first hand knowledge or memory of what those early years were actually like. All the panic and fear, the public hysteria, the government’s complete inaction to address the problem, and the founding of Gay Groups in order to save all the lives we could save.

  • lol


    Agreed. This should be required viewing for gaybies. We’ve come along way, but it’s important to remember where you came from.

  • Nic

    @Emily: Um, yeah, like *that’s* gonna work

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