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Film 'How to Survive a Plague,' about AIDS activism in the 1980s and '90s, to air Dec. 30 on PBS

The film How to Survive a Plague, about AIDS activism in the 1980s and '90s, will air Dec. 30, 2013, on PBS' Independent Lens.

Here are details from PBS:

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How to Survive a Plague tells the story of two coalitions, ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), whose fearless activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and ‘90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, heated meetings, heartbreaking failures, and exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making. The film premieres on Independent Lens, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, December 30, 2013, 10:00-11:30 PM ET on PBS (check local listings).

In the dark days of 1987, the country was six years into the AIDS epidemic, a crisis that was still being largely ignored by government officials and health organizations — until the sudden emergence of the activist group ACT UP in Greenwich Village. Largely made up of HIV-positive participants who refused to die without a fight, they took on the challenges public officials had ignored, raising awareness of the disease through a series of dramatic protests. More remarkably, they became recognized experts in virology, biology, and pharmaceutical chemistry. Their efforts would see them seize the reins of federal policy from the FDA and NIH, force the AIDS conversation into the 1992 presidential election, and lead the way to the discovery of effective AIDS drugs that saved countless lives.

First-time director and award-winning journalist David France, who has been covering the AIDS crisis for 30 years, culls from a huge amount of archival footage — most of it shot by the protestors themselves. Interspersed with contemporary interviews, the film is not just a historical document, but also an intimate and visceral recreation of the period through the personal stories of some of ACT UP and TAG’s leading participants. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, How to Survive a Plague captures both the joy and terror of those days, and the epic day-by-day battles that finally made AIDS survival possible.

Visit the How to Survive a Plague companion website (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/) which features information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker, and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.

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