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How to Survive a Plague (2012)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History, News | 8 November 2013 (UK)
2:18 | Trailer

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The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.



, (as T. Woody Richman) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Himself (archive footage)
David Barr ...
Bob Rafsky ...
Himself (archive footage)
Jim Eigo ...
Ann Northrop ...
Gregg Bordowitz ...
Bill Bahlman ...
Spencer Cox ...
Barbara Starrett ...
Iris Long ...
Herself (archive footage)
Franke-Ruta Garance ...
Herself (as Garance Franke-Ruta)
Mark Harrington ...
Jesse Helms ...
Himself (archive footage)


In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the disease was considered a death sentence affecting communities, like the LGBT ones, whom many in power felt deserved it. This film tells the story of how militant activists like ACT-UP and TAG pushed for a meaningful response to this serious public health problem. As the activists struggled against political indifference, religious hostility, corporate greed and apparently skewed scientific research priorities with determination and sheer audacity, they produced a political wave that would lead to not only an effective treatment regime, but would advance LGBT rights beyond anyone's expectations. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Official Sites:




Release Date:

8 November 2013 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

AIDS-pioneerit  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$28,250 (USA) (21 September 2012)


$122,665 (USA) (9 November 2012)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Larry Kramer: Every single drug that's out there is because of ACT UP, I am convinced. It is the proudest achievement that the gay population of this world can ever claim.
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Featured in The 85th Annual Academy Awards (2013) See more »


I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You
{erformed by Louis Prima
Written by Spo-De-Odee (as Sam Theard)
Used by Permission of EMI Mills Music, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music
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User Reviews

not very interesting
14 April 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

After having been very surprised and impressed with the AIDS documentary We Were Here, I thought I'd check out this one too. Unfortunately I found myself very disappointed.

The documentary follows the political activism of ACT UP and TAG, and doesn't stray very far from that main track. The filmmakers took a clear political stance on the side of the activists, and much of the documentary smacks of "preaching to the choir." Serious issues are not always taken seriously, and public figures such as George Bush Sr. and Jesse Helms are openly mocked by both the people in the documentary and also the filmmakers themselves.

My main disappointment involved the documentary's focus, which fixed unwaveringly upon the activists. To be fair, this might be a good thing if you happen to be interested in ACT UP and TAG. But some websites (e.g. wikipedia) misleadingly suggest that the documentary also discusses more generally the early period of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. In fact, rarely do the filmmakers show us anything beyond the activism itself. It does not delve into any serious scientific issues, nor does it help us understand the early development of attitudes and expectations people had regarding HIV and AIDS. Also note that it only covers the years from 1987 onward. So we don't get to see anything at all about the beginning of the epidemic in 1981-1986.

Maybe others would appreciate this film, but I did not enjoy it at all. Even for those who are interested in the subject matter, it's hard to imagine this being a compelling documentary. But for those of us who aren't already interested in this particular thread in the history of AIDS, it falls even flatter. It's not as bad as some documentaries, but I certainly don't recommend it either. Sorry to be so negative, but that's just how I see it.

8 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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