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PBS Airs Film Honoring Unsung Heroes of Fight Against AIDS

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PBS Independent Lens How to Survive a Plague


Like many of the great plagues of history, AIDS has taken a heavy toll, but one that would have been far worse if not for the brave, selfless efforts of an unsung few who made it their mission to galvanize and shame governments and the pharmaceutical industry into taking action. The documentary How to Survive a Plague, which receives its television premiere on most PBS stations on December 30, tells the story of some of these heroes, and the lives they saved.

How to Survive a Plague was shown earlier this year at the Sundance and many other film festivals, and has won or been nominated for many awards, including an Oscar. It is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It airs on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern time, Monday, December 30.

In his Academy Award nominated film, first-time director David France does more than just identify and chronicle the actions of the activists who took to the streets, lobbied officials and wrestled with the media to grab the nation’s attention in their struggle to find ways to treat those facing what most believed was a death sentence. Through interviews and the use of never-before-seen archival footage France takes viewers behind the scenes to where the real battles were fought, the battles that resulted in the creation of the experimental drugs from which eventually evolved the medicines that have extended the lives and given hope to all those who suffer or have a loved one suffering from AIDS.

In exploring the struggle to battle this epidemic, the latest offering in the PBS’ Independent Lens series, How to Survive a Plague profiles members of the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and ACT UP coalition. The film depicts how many of their members took it on themselves to research the chemical, biological and virological sciences not only to find a treatment but also to convince government agencies, politicians and pharmaceutical companies that such treatments were possible. Through their efforts, the plague that decimated a generation is now a disease that can be fought, and not a hopeless sentence of death.

How to Survive a Plague is not easy to watch, but it is a fitting tribute to the human spirit, and an homage to those who refuse to surrender even in the face of almost certain death.

How to Survive a Plague is part of The Independent Lens series and will air on most PBS stations at 10 p.m. ET Monday, December 30. The film is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer, columnist, historian and game designer. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at
…or his blog at
Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at
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