How to Survive a Plague (2012) Movie Script

Welcome to ACT UP!
We are the AIDS coalition
to unleash power.
A diverse non-partisan group
of individuals united in anger
and committed to direct action to...
...end the AIDS crisis!
Less than 12 hours from now,
we are going to be taking over
city hall!
ACT UP, fight back, fight AIDS!
Mr. mayor, in campaigning for
the lesbian and gay vote in an
election year, a bit of
historical context is necessary
in dealing with the AIDS
crisis in New York City.
It wasn't until 1983 that you met with
people to deal with the AIDS crisis.
- How do you respond to these criticisms?
- That is a falsehood.
Please, anybody who's thinking
about being arrested,
fill out a support sheet, make
sure your support person knows
who you are and what
group you're in... yeah?
If we end up in the tombs,
is there like, a queer tank
there and would you recommend
that we ask to be there?
There is a homo-tank and
I've been there and it's
better than the straight
tank, let me tell you.
Who else? Yes?
In the past, you've described act
up as fascist, yet in the press
release, you called them
"concerned citizens" and I was
wondering what
changed your mind?
Well, I don't think
you can't use both.
Fascists can be concerned
citizens and I don't believe
they are fascists, I think they
have used a fascist tactic.
Let us celebrate together
tonight, the end of the last day
on which Ed Koch can tell
himself that the communities
which are being decimated by
this epidemic are so weak and
so divided among themselves, that he can
keep serving us this kind of bullshit.
Tomorrow morning he will
begin to learn the truth!
ACT UP, stand tall, tomorrow
morning at city hall!
ACT UP, stand tall,
tomorrow morning at city hall!
ACT UP, stand tall,
tomorrow morning at city hall!
ACT UP, stand tall...
We're talking to Jim Eigo from the
treatment issues committee of ACT UP.
Jim, what specific
treatment issues are being
brought into this
demonstration this week?
The municipal hospitals are
totally falling apart.
More than half of the people
that get diagnosed with AIDS
today get diagnosed in the
emergency rooms of our city.
You're going to find yourself
waiting four days in an
emergency room before
you get a bed.
Pretty scared, but being
HIV-positive, I don't have
much choice in the matter.
I just love all these people,
and I think what we're doing is
really right and I mean, listen to
this and look at all the people.
It's just really wonderful and it's
worth putting yourself on the line for.
...there is no
accurate diagnosis.
There are incentives in the city
hospitals not to diagnose people
with AIDS and therefore,
people don't get treated.
We are angry at the way this
city has handled this crisis
and we demand that ed Koch exert leadership
and declare a state of emergency.
Go in the street now or wait,
those are the options.
- One, he says go.
- Go now.
Says now, three.
Go now, Tom says.
We're standing here
with Larry Kramer.
What is ACT UP trying to
say today to Ed Koch?
We're sending a message to
public officials, to closeted
public officials, that we won't
be shat on anymore and obviously
all the AIDS issues.
I would love to see
like, more cameras or
something, you know, for
our own protection.
Did everyone hear his concern?
People die every day,
friends get sick every day.
It's like being in the trenches.
There's such anger in the
community and it is coalescing
in a way that has never
been done before.
Okay, which way do we face
girlfriends, this way or that way?
Healthcare is a right,
healthcare is a right!
Healthcare is a right,
healthcare is a right!
Healthcare is a right,
healthcare is a right!
Pump up the budget!
Healthcare is a right,
healthcare is a right!
You are currently in violation
of law by obstructing
vehicular pedestrian traffic.
You have the option of leaving
at this time, otherwise...
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Fight back, fight AIDS!
I guess I'm feeling pretty
helpless at the moment.
I think like, the biggest
question that I'm facing
now is how to remain hopeful in
the face of increasing loss.
I don't know, maybe it
sounds really corny but I...
As difficult as the time is for
us... I like being alive.
And I love my friends and I love
my family.
I love the people around me.
I'm going to die from this.
This isn't going to be cured
for years and years and years.
Doctor's office.
Hi, it's Peter Staley.'s like living in a war,
all around me, friends are
dropping dead and you're scared
for your own life, all
at the same time.
I was diagnosed with
AIDS-related complex while I was
working as a bond
trader on wall street.
I had night sweats.
I began to get dry, patchy,
scaly, itchy skin on my face.
And I would get sick constantly.
Colds would lay me up for weeks.
I started to look around in
desperation for ways that I
could find treatments to help
save my life... um... And
there was nothing coming out
of our government's efforts,
I quickly realized.
Everything I read said I had about
two years to live, at most.
- What do we want?
- A cure!
- When do we want it?
- Now!
- What do we want?
- A cure!
- When do we want it?
- Now!
- What do we want?
- A cure!
- When do we want it?
- Now!
I was on my way to work and I got
handed a flyer about act up and AIDS.
My mentor says, "if you ask me,
I think they all deserve to die
because they took it up the butt."
I was deeply closeted and I had to just
stew about it for the rest of the day.
I got myself to the very
next ACT UP meeting.
They could just tap into that
immediate anger and get stuff done.
...we will not leave until an
administrator meets with us
and tells us that St. Vincent's
is willing to make a public
statement condemning gay
and lesbian violence.
All those in favor?
All those opposed?
They're coming!
You see them right there.
You've heard about ACT UP.
You've seen our flyers.
The kiss-in happens tonight.
Fight back!
Make love!
Whoo, whoo!
I'll deal with the cameras.
Are you the security guard
that was beating people up?
Members of the mainstream
media were thrown out, as we
were earlier on, but Steve Zabel
and I came back in and we're
bringing you this exclusive footage.
Don't destroy property!
You're destroying property.
Well, actually you damaged
some human property last week.
You damaged people.
You will not beat up on faggots
and you will not beat up
on lesbians in hospitals
in our own community.
Two gay women were beaten up
and when her lover came to
respond... you know the story.
And another story was when two
gay guys came in, one was sick
with AIDS, the security guard
told him to get the fuck out of
here and called him "faggot."
I think if you're gonna work,
especially in Greenwich village,
you should have some sensitivity training,
'cause we're not gonna have it.
I'm willing to meet with three
people if the rest of you leave.
Okay, one at a time,
one at a time.
It's unclear how to play it.
My own instinct would be to say,
"we'll be glad to meet with you,
and when the meeting's
over, we'll leave."
Not to leave before the
meeting takes place.
We've shown the kind of power we
can have by immediate action,
by sticking together, by
reaching a consensus together.
We should take this in steps
and we should be cool-headed.
I'm going to take
a straw poll, Okay?
...and we agreed to leave the
waiting room while he met with
three of our representatives:
Gregg, Jerry and Neil, in that
public space right there.
And then we would stick around out here
and wait to see what the outcome was.
So I said, "enough of this,
this job is gonna kill me."
So, I went on disability and
decided to become a
full-time AIDS activist.
In the beginning, what
drugs did we have?
We had nothing.
And the pneumonia could come
on like that, and be gone
and that person is dead.
The skin lesions, the Kaposi's sarcoma was...
people would be
coming in with a purple spot.
Everybody was coming in
with, "what is this spot?
What is that spot?"
You'd have some guys come in with k.S.
On their face and
they'd be putting makeup on
their face and they'd be...
It was... and they were lucky if
it just stayed in the skin.
If it didn't go into their
lungs, and then if it went into
their lungs, chemo didn't
work and then they were gone.
You were grasping at straws for
everything because these are
young, vibrant people.
And all of a sudden
they're being snatched.
I think everything has to
be put in perspective.
Iris long is lifesaving.
If you can't hear in the back and you
want to, just shout it out, please.
This is a report from the
American society of microbiology,
a conference I went
to at the end of may.
There were many infections
talked about, including AIDS
at this conference, and it was
overwhelming to know how many
pathogens, bacteria, fungus,
protozoas and viruses there are
out there that can really make
you very sick...
One day this woman just showed up, this
housewife who had been a scientist and
still was, and said, "you guys don't
know diddly about what this is.
And anybody who wants to learn
about the system, how it works,
how grants are made, how the
science works, how everything
works, how the N.I.H. Works, how the F.D.A.
Works, how you
can deal with all this enormous
amount of material, I'll teach you."
There should be much more funding than
there is for infectious diseases.
Iris was not gay, but
she could not see, with what was
going on around her and what
she knew, not reaching out to the
affected communities of AIDS.
I waited and went up to
iris afterwards and said,
"I'm interested in what you were
saying, I'd like to know more,
I'd like to help."
And a few people joined her,
and that became a bigger and
bigger group and that became the
treatment and data committee:
T & D.
They're still getting a hell
of a lot more money than
actually getting those treatments in... was kind of a dorky
activity for a bunch of east village
hipsters and artists to sit around reading
medical journal articles.
We called it science club, like
it was chess club or something.
There aren't drugs.
Individual after individual
had to come to grips
with the fact that "I will
survive the longest, the most I
know about what I'm
putting into my body."
So they all had to be become
scientists, to some degree.
And what I'd like everyone to
do is to keep on thinking of
ways to refine these things to
make them more clear to people
that don't necessarily
know the issues.
Like, 'o. I.', no one knows what 'o.
I.' Is... Okay, so I wrote it
here, just 'cause
it's shorthand.
Only 17% of people in their
trials have been taking drugs
for opportunistic
infections or cancers...
Mark wasn't like the
big, beefcakey guy.
He was super smart,
smoked nonstop.
Right away, Mark
digested, as by osmosis,
And within a few weeks, he had
come up with a glossary of AIDS
treatment terms and we started
giving it out in our meetings.
Next we have an announcement by
Tom Dwayne regarding housing.
This is Bernard Braverman, who's
in danger of being evicted
from his apartment that he shared with
his life partner for many, many years.
His life partner died and the
landlord wants Bernard out of
his home, because his name
was not on the lease.
What's his landlord's address?
There are cards here to fill
out to write to the governor.
Let's make sure our voices
are heard in New York City
to save the homes of p.W.A.S and
other non-traditional families.
Thank you.
I just want to say something
about what's just happened.
I've realized we haven't done
anything yet for him and we
haven't been effective and
we haven't been powerful.
But we will be.
It's very inspiring to know
that the power in this room is
potentially available to
each and every one of us.
One, two, three.
How's it?
Is that as good as
daddy's or better?
You're better.
Would you like daddy to try it?
Are you ready?
That's not very good.
One, two, three.
I know this sounds ironic, considering
that it ended in divorce, but I think it
is fair to say it is the only really
successful love affair of my life.
I came out at age 40.
It was very bad timing to come out
in the middle of an epidemic.
The question is what does a
decent society do with people
who hurt themselves because
they're human, who smoke too
much, who eat too much, who drive
carelessly, who don't have safe sex?
I think the answer is that a
decent society does not put
people out to pasture and let them die
because they've done a human thing.
For the first time today,
the government approved
prescription sales of
a drug to treat AIDS.
The drug, A.Z.T., is not a cure
for the disease, but it has
prolonged the lives
of some AIDS victims.
It's the only government-approved
AIDS drug in America.
But even this most promising of drugs
is a source of frustration and anger.
At $10,000 a year cost per
patient, it's prohibitively expensive
for most and not widely available.
Out of the bars and
into the streets!
Out of the bars and
into the streets!
A.Z.T. Was the most
expensive drug in history;
They charge $10,000 a year.
We need to get a substantial price
reduction out of this company.
The incident began at 10
this morning when four AIDS
activists took over an office at
Burroughs Wellcome, saying they
had enough food and water to
stay holed up for a long time.
The activists are demanding that Burroughs
Wellcome lower its price of A.Z.T.
Burroughs Wellcome is
profiting off of our lives,
that's why we did
today what we did.
And, if they don't see to, start
listening to my community,
to our community, the AIDS
community, then we're
gonna be back.
One of the worst, worst
things was when people
died in the hospital, they used
to put them in black trash bags.
It was...
It was really awful.
And not every funeral parlor
would take patients who had died
of AIDS.
But so the least we could
offer is sympathy and moral
support, you know, and kindness,
and so forth.
And that they deserved,
in any case.
And when even that became
denied, you know, by the
totalitarian rules of
organizations, of institutions,
it was really horrifying.
It is the most frightening
medical mystery of our times.
AIDS victims must deal with the trauma
of being both a patient and a pariah.
I hate to use the word "gay"
in connection with sodomy.
There's nothing gay about these
people, engaging in incredibly
offensive and revolting conduct that
has led to the proliferation of AIDS.
There is a feeling among
members of any of a number of
professions or just the general
population, that patients with
AIDS, many of whom are homosexual,
are a little bit different.
I think that that has led to a
little bit of a complacency
about the approach
towards this disease.
In the absence of adequate
health care, we have learned to
become our own clinicians, researchers,
lobbyists, drug smugglers, pharmacists.
We have our own libraries, newspapers,
drug stores, and laboratories.
Some of the medications that were
made available were not effective.
They were in this category that
we called "what the hell" drugs,
which is there's some
evidence it could be useful,
it's unlikely to be harmful...
what the hell.
Should I type?
Yes, type.
Take your time.
Where are we?
We're at the people with AIDS health
group, the largest underground buyers'
club in the United States.
And what do you do here?
We help people import drugs
from other countries, um,
that are unapproved here.
Peptide T, albendazole, oral
amphotericin b, um, we have a
whole variety of things for
your treatment pleasure.
None of which work, by the way.
Put that in.
People with AIDS, what they
were mostly thinking about was
"oh, drugs, how do I
get it off-market?
How do I... will we ever get a
black market for this drug?
I hear this is good and..."
It was iris who helped us see:
We don't want a... black market,
we want to make the
real market work.
Try it.
Hi, I'm Mark Harrington
from ACT UP New York.
Recently, a lot of activists have
been asking why ACT UP is going...
Uh, you've got to start over, I've gotta do that...
I've gotta do that over.
You can just start
yourself over.
But I did - but I won't get that
wonderful cigarette-lighting thing.
I think the cigarette maybe
is not going to work.
I shouldn't use the
cigarette at all?
I don't think so, it's too, um...
too much.
Too much?
Hi, I'm Mark Harrington
from ACT UP New York.
A lot of people have been asking why are
AIDS activists going to the F.D.A.?
First of all, you have to
understand that the F.D.A. Is
one of the many federal AIDS
bureaucracies which we're angry
with for not doing enough
in the fight against AIDS.
Half the people who take A.Z.T.
Can't take it 'cause of side
effects, and therefore,
the F.D.A. Has to take a more activist
stance in the experimental process.
And only the F.D.A. Has the
power under existing laws and
regulations to release the drugs
that we want released now.
How's that?
Chanting group approaches:
A.Z.T. Is not enough!
Give us all the other stuff!
A.Z.T. Is not enough!
Give us all the other stuff!
A.Z.T. Is not enough!
Give us all the other stuff!
It takes nine months to
test a drug in Europe... in Belgium,
in France, in Germany, in england.
We are not asking the F.D.A. To
release dangerous drugs without
safety or efficacy.
We are simply asking the F.D.A.
To do it quicker.
Drugs for sale!
Drugs for sale!
Dextran sulfate for sale.
Get your dextran here.
You can't get it inside.
...f. D.A., but we're
selling it anyway.
$30 for dextran sulfate!
Release the drugs now!
Release the drugs now!
Release the drugs now!
...get to work, get to work!
Get to work, get to work!
...guilty, guilty, guilty!
Guilty, guilty, guilty!
Guilty, guilty, guilty!
...seize control, seize control!
Seize control, seize control!
Keep it moving!
Keep it moving!
Seize control!
Seize control, seize control...
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Seize control!
Seize control, seize control!
Seize control,
seize control, seize control!
Seize control!
Tell us why you got arrested, where are
they taking you, what's going on today?
We don't know what's...
where they're taking us.
We're here because this
government has the resources
to deal with the AIDS epidemic, and
they won't do it unless we force them.
I.J. Hutchins reports
live from Rockville,
where the massive protest
is wrapping up... I.J.?
Well, Jim, it's being billed as one
of Montgomery county's biggest
demonstrations in recent history
and it went off smoothly.
185 arrests, as a coalition of
gay groups came to Rockville
to shut down the F.D.A.
Tonight, from Washington,
crossfire, against all odds.
On the left, Tom Braden.
On the right, pat Buchanan.
In the crossfire, Peter Staley of the New
York AIDS coalition to unleash power.
Peter Staley, you have the
AIDS virus, and I am sorry.
But don't you think that the
federal drug administration has
a responsibility not to let
people, such as you, have quacks
that could cause even more
harm than you already have?
The problem is, is that the F.D.A.
Is using the same
process to test a nasal spray
as it is to test AIDS drugs,
and it's a 7-10 year process.
You have the F.D.A.
Giving you a drug.
So far, you've got A.Z.T.
Why... - which I can't take
because it's too... far too toxic
and over half the people
that have HIV can't take.
Okay, but the F.D.A. Says
there is nothing else
that is worth anything.
Mr. Staley, this is gonna astonish you,
but I agree with you a hundred percent.
I think if someone's got AIDS
and someone wants to take a
drug, it's their life and if it gives them
hope, you ought to be able to take it.
What I want to ask you is
whether you know of anything
that you think might be some
kind of miraculous cure that
you think they're
sitting on at F.D.A.
There are over 140 drugs out
there that the F.D.A. Has
identified as possibilities,
and are in some stage of
being looked at right now.
Why are they holding back?
Among that 140, there's gotta
be one or a combination thereof
that can, that can slow down this
virus or halt it in its tracks.
You're just simply carrying
the virus, is that correct?
I have a few very minor symptoms and
my immune system is virtually shot.
What would you like to take?
I would like to be able to take
dextran sulfate... legally.
How would that hurt you?
...on the underground
right now.
Well, why not, Mr. Braden?
Because... well, I don't know
anything about dextran sulfate.
Well, I'll tell you this:
It's an over-the-counter drug in
Japan and has been for 20 years.
But - over-the-counter.
But if the F.D.A. Says...
I'm only asking that they
be released after there's a minimal
amount of efficacy, not a 100% test.
You've got the pink triangle on
your shirt, silence equals death.
I gather that means
you're a homosexual.
- Yes.
- Looking in the camera, what would you tell some
kid, say you had a younger
brother, 21 years old, who also
might have homosexual
tendencies, what would you tell
him if you wanted him
to live a long life?
Use a condom, and also to use a lubricant,
by the way, that has the medicine...
this is Russian roulette.
It is not Russian roulette.
It is Russian roulette to not
give people this information
when human nature dictates
that they're gonna
go out there, and
they're gonna have sex.
- You mean celibacy is impossible?
- It's just not gonna work.
People aren't gonna do it, and lots,
lots of people are gonna die.
Now would you rather have a lot
of people cheating on their
celibacy with thousands of
people dying, or would you rather save
those lives and let them have sex?
I think that, uh... Well,
thank you very much,
Peter Staley, thanks for
being in our studio.
Mr. Braden and I will
be back in in a minute.
One of the things we wanted
was a drug that you gave
to people who had
cytomegalovirus and advanced
AIDS, because people who had
both tended to go blind.
It was called d.H.P.G.
In a way similar to A.Z.T., it
was highly toxic, but it was
known to be effective because
6,000 people had already used
the drug, but never
in a clinical trial.
Hey, hey, F.D.A.!
How many people did
you kill today?
We are with Jim Eigo from
ACT UP, and there's a major
protest going on here in
Bethesda over the drug d.H.P.G.
Tell us what's happening.
Well, this is the second
meeting of the bush commission
for reviewing procedures for
approving AIDS and cancer drugs.
And we thought, since the
non-approval of d.H.P.G. Is
such a perfect example of how
regulation has gone wrong,
we'd bring it home to the
commission itself by showing up here
in force, and that's what we've done.
Okay, also inside at the hearing
itself, and I understand
there's gonna be an action in just a
little while when Ellen Cooper speaks.
I guess so.
What about d.H.P.G.?
What about d.H.P.G.?
Without the objective data, we
feel that we would indeed be
on, on treacherous grounds in
defending that decision, and in
fact would be wide open to the
charge of arbitrary
Although, uh, we certainly
wouldn't be be accused
of being inflexible.
You did it with A.Z.T., I don't
see why you can't do it with...
I mean, I have to say that
the difference in the data
between A.Z.T. And d.H.P.G. Is
the difference between night and day, as far as...
Sight and blindness.
You're just as blind...
...since this meeting's started, and four
more are gonna die before it's over.
Who represents the
patient on this panel?
Where is the person of
color on this panel?
F.D.A. Relooks at the
d.H.P.G. Data and suddenly, oh!
Agrees with ACT UP.
Ready for a vote?
All in favor, raise your hand.
One, two...
Well, that's everyone.
It was really an amazing
encounter, but it sort
of felt like reaching, uh,
the wizard of oz, like,
you've got to the center of the
whole, of the whole system,
and there's just this
schmuck behind a curtain.
There was no guiding agenda,
there was no leadership,
there was no global strategy for
how to deal with AIDS in the U.S.
And so, on the bus back from
Bethesda, we decided to write a
treatment agenda, because nobody
was dealing with the entire map
of AIDS, the entire
constellation of opportunistic
infections, the gaps in
research, the underrepresented
populations, the fact that the
diseases and the drugs might
be different in
those populations.
- How would we ever find out?
- They weren't even being studied.
In the dark of night
I laid myself to rest
step out of the strange...
- Bye, Ron!
- Bye, Bobby!
Come on Catherine, let's go.
It's time to go.
come to life...
...knows no borders!
The AIDS crisis!
Knows no borders!
The AIDS crisis!
Knows no borders!
The AIDS crisis!
Knows no borders!
The AIDS crisis!
Knows no borders!
The AIDS crisis!
Knows no borders!
I'd just like to say that
the reasons I can't get any
of these drugs is 'cause for
nine years now, the leadership
in this country has failed to
come up with a plan of action.
They've failed to come up with
a plan of research, a national
research agenda.
People with AIDS and their advocates
have finally done this for them.
This is it.
This is the plan
we're presenting.
We need our government to read
this plan, we need them to work
with us, if they want to change
it a little, we'll talk to them.
But I want them to adopt it,
I want them to get started
on it, I want them to save our lives.
Thank you.
I snuck around and grabbed, uh,
grabbed one of those copies,
and it was very interesting.
We believe that the united
states has a global
responsibility to quickly
develop effective treatments,
not only for HIV infection
itself, but for all of the
opportunistic infections, which
actually cause suffering and
death in people
living with AIDS.
This is not a new agenda, and it
is not an agenda of only ACT UP.
Scientists agree with this.
Why can't we have it?
The researchers and regulators
are going to have to
come up with a parallel release
program that will get drugs to
the people who need it before
the five years down the pipe
where they may be
approved by the F.D.A.
I was scribbling madly
in this copy of their,
their AIDS treatment research agenda...
I would go back and
forth between saying, "no, no!
They, they don't understand!"
To saying, "whoa, you mean this
isn't the way we're doing trials?
You mean people aren't
allowed to do this or that?"
But I have to tell you that I
was still not ready to sort of
go up to them and
try, try and engage.
I brought this copy back and I
distributed it to a small group
of statisticians that was meeting regularly
to talk about trial design issues.
The people sitting around that
table got as excited as I did.
This had clearly been written
by people who were very
knowledgeable, very, very
intelligent, and really wanted
to do the trials the
best possible way.
They were not against trials.
They wanted to get the right
answers, but they wanted what
they called humane trials.
It all came together in
Montreal, but what was new for
ACT UP... we went
to a drug company.
There is renewed hope for
people infected with AIDS.
A new experimental drug, D.D.I.,
will be distributed on a limited
basis for free this fall by its developer,
the giant Bristol-Myers company.
This marks the first time an
anti-AIDS drug will be available
even before safety
testing is finished.
Full A.Z.T. Treatment is too
much for patient Peter Staley.
For nine months, he's been limited to a
quarter-dose of the drug, and wants D.D.I.
As soon as possible.
Do you need D.D.I.
To live, do you think?
Yes, I need, I need D.D.I.
I probably need some other
anti-virals beyond that.
It is historic, it is because
the AIDS activist community
has obtained this drug.
It is not the government, no one
has given it to us, we have
fought for it, and for the
first time, we have won.
So, by '89, less than a year after our F.D.A.
Demo, they had
approved a drug to prevent
blindness in people with AIDS.
And we had gotten expanded
access to D.D.I., and that was
a very powerful feeling.
We felt like we were taking direct
action and we were helping make
people's lives better.
I wasn't sure that A.Z.T. Or D.D.I.
Were all that great,
but we were beginning to get
letters from people that said,
"thank you for saving my
eyesight, " " thank you, ACT UP,
for getting me access to D.D.I.
And helping to save my life."
At Merck, HIV was an
important scientific target.
HIV, of course, is a virus.
In order for the virus to infect
an uninfected cell, it needs to
construct itself in
a particular way.
First, the viral RNA needs to
transform itself into a DNA copy
in order to knit itself into the nuclear
DNA of the newly infected cell.
This occurs by a process
called reverse transcription.
- A.Z.T. And D.D.I. Were both
- Originally developed to try to
inhibit that process of
establishing infection.
A number of other researchers
began to focus on another
portion of the viral life cycle,
after the cell is already infected.
One of the steps that it takes is that is...
it makes a viral
protein, it has to snip that viral
protein in very specific places.
The resulting pieces self-assemble
to make the viral particle.
And what does the snipping,
and what in fact controls
the snipping is a viral
protein called the protease.
If you genetically modify the
viral protease so that it can no
longer snip, the virus no longer
has the ability to make those
component pieces that it
needs to make in order to
self-assemble, and make an
infectious viral particle.
We solved the structure
of HIV protease in 1989,
and published it pretty quickly.
I think, I think we saw the
structure and within a few weeks
it was in the literature.
And then the question became
"all right, can we prove it?"
Can we prove it that that is
in fact the case, and most
importantly, can we prove that
if you inhibit that protease,
if you knock out its activity,
that the virus can no longer
replicate, and therefore make new
progeny viral particles that
would then go on and establish
a new cycle of infection.
AIDS is now the leading
cause of death for men
under 44 in New York and a
half-dozen other cities,
surpassing homicide and
all other diseases.
Yet Roman catholic bishops are
meeting this week to publicly
oppose the use of condoms
as morally unacceptable.
This puts them in direct opposition to U.S.
public health policy.
The new church position
condemns not only the
immorality of condoms, but
their effectiveness, as well.
The draft under consideration in
Baltimore this week says it is
quote, "a virtual certainty that
reliance on condoms will result
in transmission of AIDS."
Of the bishop's proposed new
policy, New York City health
commissioner Stephen
Joseph says...
This would be a
public health disaster.
It would undoubtedly lead to
more transmission, particularly
in high-risk areas of the city,
more disease and more death.
Catholic conservatives say not
just physical death but spiritual
death is at issue here.
As New York City's archbishop,
John cardinal O'Connor put it...
The use of prophylactics is
immoral in a pluralistic society
or any other society.
I think that's it except, of
course, we have Ann Northrop
giving her sound bite technique.
Uh, we want everybody to join
us, to support us, to destroy
the power of the catholic
church, to make our side the
strong one, and to do that,
we must put out the message
that we are the ones who are
fighting for people's lives,
and they are the murderers.
Don't be afraid of the media.
You're talking through
them to the public.
We are trying to arouse,
to anger an action.
And hone it down to, yes, a
three-second bite, a five-second bite,
just a phrase that will have an
impact, that will say something
specific and that will
be understandable.
I don't have a, uh, phrase
worked out, and, uh, so you're
all gonna have to create your
own, so this is empowerment.
Answer me,
sweet Jesus
won't you help me?
Please, you're interfering
with us, step back.
This is Jesus Christ.
I'm in front of St. Patrick's
cathedral on Sunday.
We're here reporting on a major AIDS
activist and abortion-rights activist
demonstration, which will be
taking place here all morning.
Inside, cardinal O'Connor is
busy spreading his lies and rumors about
the position of lesbians and gays.
We're here to say we want
to go to heaven, too.
J.C. Here with the fire and
brimstone network, and we'd like
to ask you a little bit about this large
vision that you've visited upon us.
Well, we've decided to
rename the cardinal.
He's now cardinal O'Condom.
This is our message to him that
condoms are safe, it's no sin.
Stop killing us!
Stop killing us!
Stop killing us!
We're not gonna take it anymore!
You're killing us!
Stop it!
Stop it!
Stop it!
Stop it!
Stop it, stop it!
Stop it!
How many more have to die?
How many more have to die?
Saving lives is morally right!
Those protesting
believe that the protests
will result in some change of
environment, some change
of attitudes, perhaps.
The church will be teaching that
homosexual activity is sinful,
until the end of time.
That won't change.
This is July 22nd, 1989.
Now Sara, what do you think
about your dad being 44?
Thank you, thank you
for your support.
One, two, three.
Yay... We did it.
A lot of smoke.
Oh, boy.
I wish those candles
would stop smoking.
It's bad for their health.
That's right.
Okay, Robert Rafsky, do you have
any remarks before you jump off
the edge of the porch?
I have no interest in jumping
off the edge of the porch.
I will jump up and down.
I think 44 is a very fine age.
It has a nice symmetry to it,
it has a nice feeling to it.
It's, uh, better than 22 and
possibly better than 88.
We'll see.
Here's how we planned this.
What we want to do is run this
like a treatment and data meeting.
A number of times we've had
people come to a treatment and
data meeting and speak on
certain issues.
We try to get in depth, we
try to nail issues down.
This isn't a free-for-all.
Let's call it a working
So, why don't we start?
This is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Bob Rafsky.
I may be wrong, Dr. Fauci, but
it's my understanding that
thousands of people died from
pneumonia because there was no
priority within the government,
or within the medical system
as a whole, to push the known
preventative treatments
for a long time.
Now those thousands
of people are dead.
It would seem to me that someone
who was within the government
while that took place, as you
were, must have on their
conscience these deaths.
That is a tough one, um...
No, it really is.
It's inexcusable that an
academic priority should ever,
ever come before the health of
the people that you're working
with, there's no
question about that.
But the reality of the situation
is there was a great reluctance
among the community of
everything from the scientists
to the congress saying that what
we should be doing is not
telling investigators what to
do, but we should allow them to
do what they feel is
the most important.
Now that sounds awful when
you're putting it in the context
of what we're talking about here, but
the whole world isn't in this room.
Every 12 minutes someone dies!
Protests won me a Nobel prize!
Every 12 minutes,
someone dies...
AIDS activists stormed the government's
premiere disease research center.
The national institutes of health is
where an AIDS cure might be found.
It is where therapies are being
tested in clinical trials.
No more secret meetings!
No more secret... Demonstrators
blocked access to buildings.
Scientists and administrators reporting
to work stood around looking confused.
Activists charged the bush administration
with foot-dragging on AIDS research.
It's not the amount of federal
money allocated to it so much as
how research priorities
are defined.
We need new drugs to keep
people alive, but the NIH is
only testing old drugs,
drugs that we already have.
Can you tell us
what you're doing?
Hi, I'm Jim Jenson and I'm
in a clinical trial here.
And right now, I'm observing and
participating in the ACT UP demonstration.
Why? Why do you
support this action?
Because we need far
more AIDS research.
And we're just beginning.
What trial are you in?
I'm in interleukin-2 A.Z.T.
Combination study.
Are there any women
in your trial?
No, there aren't
any women at all.
People of color?
Uh, no, there are not.
Why do you think that is?
Just the beginning
of the problem.
Murder, murder!
There are three major things
that control stupidity,
incompetence and greed.
Those are the three major
driving forces behind what's
going on here and why there are
no treatments out there for
people living with this disease.
In that building down that way,
Dr. Anthony Fauci is deciding
the research priorities
for the national
institutes of allergy and
infectious diseases.
We're down here 'cause we think
we should be deciding the
research priorities, because
these are the people who know
what's going on 'cause they're
dealing with it every day.
The whole world is watching!
The whole world is watching!
The whole world is watching!
The whole world is watching...
The whole world is watching!
The whole world is watching!
The whole world is watching!
The whole world is watching...
If anything, the mood after
the n.I.H. Was even bleaker than
the mood before, because we had
no indication that they were
gonna change or respond to our
demands, and we had in fact had
a meeting with them in Bethesda
after the n.I.H. Action that
indicated that there was total
resistance to putting people
from the community on the
research committees, to letting
the ACT UP observers attend
the meetings, and to open up the meetings
so that they weren't secret anymore.
Why should science be
shrouded in secrecy?
It's supposed to be based on
a free exchange of ideas.
And, so, it was very important
to stage in San Francisco
before, again, the global
community of scientists and
people working on AIDS, why we
had been at the n.I.H., why the U.S.
system wasn't working out,
and to reach the people directly
that we had reached symbolically
through the n.I.H. Action.
About a hundred protesters
have already been arrested at
the international AIDS conference
that began today in San Francisco.
Hundreds more are angrily
protesting a government policy
they say neglects research
and ostracizes victims.
Why don't you do an
informational slide first?
"United States has the most discriminatory
immigration policies regarding HIV."
I could say, you know, as a way
to bridge the, uh, the rift
between the scientific community...
all of you...
and the activists, we'd like
you to join in some activism.
...and I've always been
painfully aware that in order
for me to beat this virus and
live, I will need a great
deal of help from all of you.
Can we all, before it's too late,
begin to understand each other?
Will we realize that we
share similar motivations?
During the upcoming days, act
up New York will be handing
out our AIDS treatment agenda,
which includes a list of
99 drugs that we believe could
be ready for small phase-one
studies this year or next.
However, from your side, we're
being constantly told to butt out.
On my side, the level of anger
and frustration is reaching such
a point that attitudes claiming
that all of you are uncaring and in
it for greed are now widespread.
While at times we may offend
you, remember as well that
like you, ACT UP has succeeded
in prolonging the lives of thousands
of people living with HIV disease.
I would like to be joined in front of
the stage by my fellow AIDS activists.
Would you all come up?
At this moment, there are others
just like us who are trying to
get into this conference but are
being barred by the Billy clubs
of San Francisco police.
And there are still others like
us who are trying to get through
customs at the San Francisco
airport, but are being detained
instead because they are gay.
There's a man that could have
prevented these absurdities.
This man has said that he would like
to see a kinder, gentler nation.
If you believe that the
immigration policy barring
people living with HIV disease
from entering this country is
useless as a health policy and
discriminatory as well, please
stand now and remain standing.
Join us in vocalizing
our collective anger.
Join us in a chant against the man who
could bring down the I.N.S. Barriers.
Join us in a chant against the
man who has decided to show his
commitment to fighting AIDS
by refusing to be here today.
Instead, he is at this very
moment in north Carolina,
attending a fundraiser for the
homophobic author of the I.N.S.
Barriers, that pig in the
senate known as Jesse helms...
Join us in this chant:
300,000 dead from AIDS,
where is George?
300,000 dead from AIDS,
where is George?
300,000 dead from AIDS,
where is George?
300,000 dead from AIDS,
where is George?
You can all now consider
yourselves members of ACT UP.
One of the things that
happened in San Francisco was
that we found out we had won
some of our n.I.H. Demands.
Fauci came up to me and said,
"we had a meeting, we decided
that we're gonna put you guys on
all the committees, and we're
gonna let your observers go to
the meetings, and the meetings
won't be secret anymore."
Never again... could any of
this be done without taking
people with AIDS and their
advocates into consideration.
This would be public
business from now on.
You know, we should all be
going through the bushes
like this, like sticking
our heads up... was beginning to feel a
little different because we'd
spent all the time up until then
being on the outside, sort of
beating on the doors and trying
to get in, and now they actually
wanted to hear what
we had to say.
We brought them in at Merck.
We made... we made a very, uh,
specific effort to bring those
individuals in so that they
would see what it is that we
were doing... or trying to
do from the very beginning.
This was really fantastic
stuff because we were sitting
down with them, and... sometimes
from the very earliest stages
of development of a drug...
and helping them plot out their strategy
toward, uh, designing clinical trials.
The chemists who had worked
on the project, a bunch...
uh, couple chemists said,
"let's look at all the aspartic
protease inhibitors that
we have on the shelf."
And they tested 'em and they found a
few molecules that actually worked.
The challenge was is now you had
these molecules that were really
good inhibitors in your assay,
which is just in a test tube.
When you put it into animals
they just would never work
or they would never get
absorbed by your system.
And I remember being very
disappointed 'cause I had to
share this information with
sort of my own personal view,
this is gonna be a lot
more difficult than,
you know, we thought
it was gonna be
originally, and in fact
may not be possible.
And Bill Bahlman said, "take a break,
pick yourself up and go back at it."
If he and his colleagues and his
friends around the table can
take that attitude and do that,
I remember saying to myself,
"Emilio, you've got no right to
say to yourself, 'I don't know
if I can do this, ' all right?"
And... so, off we went.
And we kept going at it.
We're spending $4 billion
a year on AIDS research.
When you consider that on a
per-capita basis for... compared
to heart disease or cancer,
it's an awful lot.
Almost nothing stops George
Bush from a round of golf.
He's played nearly every day...
and sometimes twice a day...
during his August vacation.
I'll be glad when you're
dead, you rascal, you
rascal, you
I'll be laughin'
when you're in your
grave, you dog
dirty dog
when you're dead
and in your grave
no more ravioli
will you crave...
If the message is research,
I would say please
talk to Dr. Fauci and others at
the national institute of health
who would tell you that, uh, we're doing
pretty well in funding of research.
...dirty dog
I invite you to my
house for a meal
all my meatballs
you tried to steal
mm... you're a devil, yeah
We've got to factor in the
sensitivity of those of us
who feel that there's a
spiritual and moral aspect to
this playing to the
homosexual, lesbian crowd.
It makes it different
from anything else.
Oh, shh-.
I wish they'd shut their
mouths and go to work
and keep their private matters
to themselves and get their
mentality out of their crotches.
I'm here today because
Jesse helms is the devil.
Jesse helms has worked for years
to do as much as he possibly can
to ensure the continuance
of the AIDS epidemic.
The disease is spreading because of him,
and people are dying because of him.
This is an educational effort, it's not a
violation of people's property rights.
We've been very careful that
absolutely no damage is done,
and if any damage is done, whatever
it is, we'll be happy to pay for it.
We have the money with
us to pay for it.
You guys don't want to tangle
with these people 'cause
you don't want to get AIDS,
I know, but what's next?
Come on, get out.
If they would keep their
mouths shut and go about
their business with whatever
their sexual orientation is,
nobody would ever say a word and we
wouldn't know anything about it.
But, no, they march in the
streets, and they defy you to
say anything about it.
Well, they don't like me
and I don't like them.
Back off the property.
Bunch of 'em climbed up
on my house in Arlington
and hoisted about a 35-foot
canvas, uh, condom one
day in protest of me.
Fight AIDS! Fight AIDS,
fight AIDS, fight!
I'll be glad when you're
dead, you rascal, you.
Sir, when we started this
colloquy, I thought I was
on your side, particularly
on the first amendment.
And under the first amendment,
people don't have to shut their
mouths, they have
a right to speak.
Well, uh... they can speak,
uh, just so long as, uh,
they don't offend anybody
else, uh, I suppose.
Make sure your second
coming is a safe one.
Use condoms.
- ...are you shooting?
- Yeah.
I just turned it on.
Okay, rolling.
Tell him we're rolling.
The machine is rolling.
You can start
talking now, honey.
Oh, I didn't know
she meant now.
What I was gonna say was I just
love, I love so much to go up to
the 10th floor because no one
ever had explained to me that
there was going to be light
again in the world and that the
whole world wasn't
going to be dark.
Some great challenges
face us as young people.
We're in our 20s, and, and
this is the challenge that's
been placed in front of me.
And, who knows, little camera.
Lots of other blind, deaf
men have lived happy lives.
There are, there are many
years to come, let's hope.
What the hell?
Life is worth living...
Isn't it?
The death rate just
kept on climbing.
We realized that science really
was up against a brick wall.
We kept getting new drugs
approved to prevent
opportunistic infections, and then
somebody would just get another infection.
So, Peter, where are we going?
We're gonna be going to the headquarters of
daiichi pharmaceutical companies of Japan.
This is their U.S. headquarters,
and, uh, we're blockading their
offices because they have a drug
that's important both to AIDS
activists and cancer activists,
specifically, uh, breast cancer,
um, that they've been dragging
their feet on for over two
years now, and, uh, we don't
understand why, but we certainly
are gonna try to let them
understand why we're concerned.
...and, everybody...wait for
you at the end of the hall.
Just wait outside
the elevators.
Hi, we're with ACT UP.
We're doing an act of civil
disobedience, please remain calm.
Jim, it's Peter, we're in.
Send all the press.
Hello, we're from
ACT UP New York.
You already have the blood of
several thousand people on your
hands, and those of us like me
who have Kaposi's sarcoma are
gonna die, and we are here
until we get arrested.
You seem to know nothing about
the actual details of the
development of this drug.
Maybe you're just
not telling us.
Mr. Borsic, have you scheduled
a meeting with the F.D.A.?
Yeah, as soon as we can.
We have helped many companies
through this process.
We can take a drug from your
test tube to the market
in under two years if you work
with us, and we will pave the
way for you with the food
and drug administration.
But, but this total reluctance on
your part is gonna get you nowhere.
...have been used in
people for 30 years.
It'll end up killing
us, all right?
See this dark mark
on my forehead?
That's Kaposi's sarcoma.
It's gonna spread!
It's gonna kill me.
You coming to my funeral?
Because you're the man
fucking responsible.
You are my murderer in
your shirt and tie.
Do you think that you'll
live to see a cure?
I don't.
Do you think that you'll live?
You expect to die from this?
The anger just mounted and mounted and
mounted the more people who were dying.
Once a week we met...
And at that meeting a lot of
people came who were just
terrified they weren't gonna
be alive even the next week.
What can we do, how
can we get there?
I think ACT UP's anger turned in after
having been directed out so long.
In its first few years,
treatment and data pretty much
got everything it wanted from
the floor of ACT UP, but as
treatment and data was becoming
more and more technical,
there were a lot of people in the
general membership of ACT UP
that saw that as an elite, and
that maybe it would be better if
that elite was pulled in a bit.
There was a fear, I think,
that we were getting too close
to the people in power, that we would
compromise our own principles.
And the people who were more
interested in the social issues
became uncomfortable with that.
I remember this very divisive
moment where, um, you know,
there was a proposal for
moratorium on meeting with
drug companies, and someone...
for six months... and there was
a huge and impassioned debate
over it, and someone said... a
woman who was not HIV-positive
said, "well, it's not like it's
for the rest of your life."
And for a lot of people in the
room, it was the
rest of their life.
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
There were inevitable
splits in priorities.
And you know quite well...
I know.
And it was completely
left out of the n.I.H.
Research agenda.
I agree.
I, I...
I remember a lot of dirty tricks that
happened, and a lot of fear within the
organization that the various
factions had done this to each other.
Mark Harrington, Mark Harrington,
there's a video camera here now.
Would you like to take an oath
that you will not write nasty
anonymous letters to people?
I've been getting some hate
letters too, but those are
unsigned. I don't ever, I don't ever...
so you'll keep on
writing nasty letters to people?
There were a lot of charges in the midst
of that, of sabotage and threats.
Our last speaker is,
is Larry Kramer.
Why didn't you
answer the charges?
Bill, you're gonna
have a chance to talk,
all right, everybody's...
don't lecture me,
you stupid, lazy,
incompetent shithead!
Bill, everybody got the flyer... can't just lick
his ass before he talks!
Shut the fuck up and
let him answer!
Look, there are a lot of people
in the audience who want
to ask and talk about treatment,
and I think it's important that
we allow that to happen.
Oh, we're gonna dictate
free speech now?
You're the one who's interfering
with speech right now.
Go back to G.M.H.C.
Or whatever AIDS pimp
operation is paying you.
You're making the same point
George Bush made... - plague!
We are in the middle
of a fucking plague!
And you behave like this!
40 million infected people is a
fucking plague!
We are in the worst shape we
have ever, ever, ever been in!
All those pills we're shoveling
down our throats, forget it!
ACT UP has been taken over by a
lunatic fringe, they can't get
together, nobody agrees with
anything, all we can do is field
a couple hundred people
in a demonstration!
That's not gonna make
anybody pay attention!
Not until we get
millions out there!
And we can't do that!
All we do is pick at each
other and yell at each other!
And I say to you in year 10
the same thing I said to you in
1981 when there were 41 cases.
Until we get our acts together,
all of us, we are as good as
In the end, the treatment and data guys...
Peter, Garance, Mark, and some
others... split off and formed
their own separate organization.
Tag was one of the little Mercury balls
that flew off the main body of ACT UP.
A more sort of "think tank"
type project came about.
Mr. Harrington, a tag
member, educated at Harvard
college, and he has worked for
a long time on experimental
treatments for the disease, and
and also the basic science.
And Mr. Gonsalves was born in
long island and attended tufts
university, also a tag member.
Um, I guess I can do nothing
better than to turn this
conference over to my speakers.
I noticed that you're both
sitting up there in suits
and ties. Do you feel that your
approach is better than circling
n.I.H. Buildings and so forth?
I think that we like to keep our
options open, but it's silly
to risk arrest and the hassles
that are intendant upon it if
you can get serious attention
and negotiations going
with other measures.
We just released a report, a critique
of all the n.I.H.'S AIDS programs.
The research is spread out
over 12 agencies, there's no
coordination, there's
a lot of duplication.
There's no leadership.
The budget is shrinking and
shrinking as cases mount,
and the president needs to be
blamed, as well as the congress
who cut the entire n.I.H. Budget
by $150 million two weeks ago.
Our recommendations, I think,
are gonna require some
legislation, um, so we have to
go to our friends on the hill and see
what wonders they can work for us.
We had this one particular
compound that looked like it may
have had the potency and the
physical properties that we wanted,
and it could be a possible drug.
We said, you know, let's put
in HIV-infected individuals
and let's see what happens.
So, we went into HIV-infected
individuals with this drug
called crixivan, and you could
see a very substantial drop just
with the one protease inhibitor, you could
see a very substantial drop in virus load.
So that was the first week.
The second week was very
disappointing, because what we
saw in the second week was in fact, the
virus load coming right back up again.
One exception.
There was one patient that,
um, patient 143, I believe,
was his name... his number...
that the virus went
down and stayed down.
That told us that
it was possible.
If it can happen in one, then
by definition it can happen
in everyone, you just need
to figure out how to do it.
That puts you in a completely
different place and in a
completely different
state of mind.
So then the question became,
Okay, now what do we need to do
in order to make it possible?
This is the beginning of the primary
season to elect the next president.
We want to send a message to all
of the candidates... we have not
seen them actively address the
AIDS plague, and we thought
it would be best to send a message by
voting with our feet in the streets.
I want to call for a massive
march on Washington.
The weekend the AIDS
quilt is gonna be there.
We have got to surround the
white house with people
concerned about AIDS to push
bush out of the white house!
Last night a man with
AIDS heckled Clinton,
charging that he had a bad record
on fighting AIDS in Arkansas.
When voter Bob Rafsky met Bill
Clinton, it was anything but pleasant.
We're dying in this state, what
are you going to do about AIDS?
First of all, it will become a
part of my obsession as president.
And that's why I'm running for
president, to do something about it.
Will you just calm down?
I feel your pain!
I feel your pain, but if you
want to attack me personally,
you're no better than Jerry
brown and all the rest of these
people who say whatever
sounds good in the moment.
If you want something to be done,
you ask me a question, you listen.
If you don't agree with me,
go support somebody else for
president, but quit
talking to me like that.
This is not a matter of personal
attack, it's a matter of human loss.
I came here tonight because
I'm dying from AIDS.
And it doesn't matter to me who
the next president is if they
don't change 11 years of government
neglect of this epidemic.
Is this on?
This isn't on.
Um, Okay, first off, um,
what happened this week was AIDS
became an issue in this campaign.
I'd like to call
down Bob Rafsky.
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Uh, never debate a Rhodes scholar...
it gets you into a world of trouble.
It looks like what we have to do
is to keep forcing these clowns
to say the right thing so that
if one of them happens to become
president, we can hold them accountable
for doing the right thing.
But I just... it's always
important to say that we all
know that the names of the
people who might save our lives
are not Bill Clinton
and Jerry brown, etc.
The names of the people who
might save our lives are
iris long, Mark Harrington,
Peter Staley, etc.
And they're the ones who will be
remembered as the heroes of this epidemic,
as well as those who have gone before.
...and he smells
like one, too.
Well, I haven't showered,
so I'm not surprised...
No, I've just been writing and
I was up at 5 A.M. yesterday.
This is Bob's birthday,
July 22nd, 1992.
- Ready for the pyrotechnics?
- Yes!
Nathaniel, help.
Lydia E. Rios.
Steve H.
My friends David Evans,
Nicolas kaiser, George Marshall,
and my beloved brother Dennis J.
Robert R. Hakins.
Phillip Gregory Ellison.
Terry Ronan.
Michael Bennett.
Ron Field.
Tina Chow.
Perry Ellis.
Freddie Mercury.
Peter Allen.
To the thousands of other people who
were made to suffer in silence.
Join ACT UP for a
political funeral!
Meet at the South of
the capitol at 1 P.M.
Give a wake-up call to George
Bush and Bill Clinton and Perot.
I think the quilt itself does
good stuff and is moving.
Still, it's like making something beautiful
out of the epidemic, and I felt like doing
something like this is a way of showing
there's nothing beautiful about it.
You know, this is what I'm left with...
I've got a box full
of ashes and bone chips.
You know, there's
no beauty in that.
And I felt like a statement like
this is like saying "this is
what George Bush has
done," you know?
This is what him and Ronald
Reagan before him have done.
These are our loved ones and
this is what they've been
reduced to, and we're bringing them to the
person who's responsible for their death.
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
ACT UP, fight back, fight AIDS!
ACT UP, fight back, fight AIDS!
ACT UP, fight back, fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Bringing the dead to your door!
We won't take it anymore!
Bringing the dead to your door!
We won't take it anymore!
Bringing the dead to your door!
We won't take it anymore!
Bringing the dead to your door!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Shame, shame, shame, shame!
Shame, shame, shame, shame!
Shame, shame, shame, shame...
I love you, Mike!
I love you, Mike!
Welcome to the first of three
debates among the major
candidates for President of the
United States, sponsored by the
commission on
presidential debates.
Mr. president, yesterday tens
of thousands of people paraded
past the white house to demonstrate
their concern about the disease, AIDS.
A celebrated member of your
commission, magic Johnson,
quit saying that there
was too much inaction.
Where is this widespread feeling
coming from that your administration
is not doing enough about AIDS?
I can't tell you where it's
coming from, but I am very much
concerned about AIDS, and I
believe that we've got the
best researchers in the world
out there at n.I.H.
Working the problem.
It's one of the few diseases
where behavior matters.
And I once called on somebody,
"well, change your behavior.
If the behavior you're using, uh, prone
to cause AIDS, change the behavior."
Next thing I know, one of these
ACT UP groups is out saying bush
ought to change his behavior.
You can't talk about
it rationally.
Let everyone here know
that this is not a
political funeral for Mark
Fisher, who wouldn't let us burn
or bury his courage...
Or his love for us any more than
he would let the earth take his body
until it was already in flight.
He asked for this ceremony,
not so we could bury him,
but so we could celebrate
his undying anger.
This isn't a political funeral
for Mark, it's a political
funeral for the man who killed
him and so many others,
and is slowly killing me.
Whose name curls my tongue
and curdles my breath.
George Bush, we believe you'll
be defeated tomorrow because we
believe there's still some
justice left in the universe
and some compassion left
in the American people.
But whether or not you are, here
and now, standing by Mark's
body, we put this curse on you.
Mark's spirit will haunt you
until the end of your days,
so that in the moment of your defeat,
you'll remember our defeats.
And in the moment of your death,
you'll remember our deaths.
As for Mark, when the living can
no longer speak, the
dead may speak for them.
Mark's voice is here with us,
as is the voice of pericles, who
two millennia ago warned the
Athenian soldiers who didn't
have to die, and in whose death
he was complicit, but who had
the nobility to say that their
memorial was the whole earth.
Let the whole earth hear us now.
We beg, we pray, we demand
that this epidemic end!
Not just so we may live,
but so that Mark's soul may
rest in peace at last.
In anger and in grief, this fight is
not over till all of us are saved.
Fight back.
Fight AIDS.
The debate over AIDS therapy
has reignited with a new
European study that challenges
the effectiveness of A.Z.T.,
the widely prescribed drug
used to treat the HIV virus.
This study disproves what
every other study proves,
is that the drug is at best
modest, mostly useless, not good
for you in the beginning.
Two other drugs, D.D.I.
And d.D.C., were approved
because they were as good as
A.Z.T., which means that they
might not be very useful either.
All this is profoundly dispiriting
for advocates of people with AIDS.
We thought we had made some
advance in AIDS treatment over
the last five years, and these
studies show that we really haven't.
Many activists now admit their
demands were short-sighted.
It's been a huge expenditure,
a waste of money for the U.S.
Taxpayer, and it was a naivet
on our part to think that the
magic bullet was out there, it just
had to be tested in humans and, uh...
Given to us as the cure.
Many doctors and scientists say the bleak
results presented here indicate the U.S.
Government needs to substantially reorganize
the way it conducts AIDS research.
Robert Bazell, NBC News, Berlin.
There's been this big crisis at St.
Vincent's about the way
that we talk about the, uh,
what happened in Berlin.
Couple of doctors said they were afraid
of people committing suicide now.
I don't feel like, oh, now
I just... I don't feel oh, now I
want to give up, now I want to
stop living because A.Z.T.
Doesn't work.
I've felt forever now that I'm not gonna
outlive this epidemic, that I will,
that I will die from this.
You know, maybe that is our future,
that we're gonna watch each other die.
It's... that's not a new thought.
We've been thinking that ever
since we started the group.
The way that the recent spate
of deaths is... I don't know,
it all seems so much
more apocalyptic.
Like the story doesn't seem...
To have this relationship to effective
treatment, or a cure anymore.
It now seems to have this
relationship to death.
It ends, it ends with
everybody dying.
Will the last person alive in
Chelsea please turn out the lights?
Joining me now is Dr. David
Kessler, the commissioner of the
food and drug administration.
Dr. Kessler, how excited should
we get about this new family of
drugs, these
protease inhibitors?
I don't want to over-promise,
but these are the most potent
drugs we've seen
against the virus.
I know that you are pushing
for faster F.D.A. Approval
of these drugs, I know that the
application has just gone for
the first of these drugs to the f. D.A...
It's still gonna take six months.
We will turn around that
application as quick as ever.
We're approving drugs in a
matter of months these days.
But you were telling me
that's six months, right?
That's as quick as possible.
We may be able to do it
even a little quicker.
A split has developed
between those who want
rapid approval based on early
indicators of success...
And the treatment
action group, or "tag".
Tag has asked the F.D.A. To reconsider
the accelerated approval process.
We told the F.D.A., "no,
the company has asked you to
approve that drug too soon.
They need a little bit
more data first."
Tag is asking the F.D.A.
To take a closer look at
saquinavir, the first protease
inhibitor to seek approval.
We need to make sure we don't repeat the
mistake we made with A.Z.T. And D.D.I.
This is a new class of drugs.
We need to know if it works.
...the battle over early
approval of saquinavir was a
really pivotal moment for
treatment activism, and we took
such shit for it... from within.
There are a lot of people
who do agree that there are
problems, serious problems the way
drug testing and drug trials are run.
But there are many of us
who feel that halting, um,
accelerated approval is not
necessarily the answer.
Tag made their proposal for
this large, simple trial of
18,000 people that they want to
put in a placebo control trial
where one-third would get placebo.
They pushed this idea on the F.D.A.
At a secret meeting,
which was not announced
to the community.
This is something we have
fought hard and long for.
We've been arrested to get
accelerated approval through.
It's the behavior that
I have a problem with.
It's the work they're doing that
I have a problem with, and it's,
this is what I am gonna fight.
I'm not interested in mud
wrestling with the boys.
I am absolutely enraged
that there are
people who have appointed
themselves elitist
representatives, and represent themselves
as the single voice of this epidemic.
I am gonna fight them, my
patients are gonna fight
them, and you goddamn
well better fight them!
Apparently there's a big discussion on
accelerated approval and protease drug
development last week on the
floor, so we just wanted to give
you sort of the tag perspective,
and give you a sense of our, um,
proposal on protease drug
development so we can start from
a baseline of common
understanding and knowledge.
This proposal is not about
taking expanded access away,
taking accelerated approval away...
this is about adding something.
This is about figuring
out how do we get
information about how to
actually use these drugs.
We need more people when you
have a less powerful drug.
If we were dealing with penicillin,
we could do it in 20 people.
So we put together a large,
simple trial that tried to
synthesize expanded access
in a large, simple trial.
And what we did is we presented
it to Merck, we presented it to
the F.D.A., we wanted to start
a community discussion.
I just wanted to thank Gregg and Derek
for coming to tell us about this...
Because we hadn't heard anything
until we read about it in Barron's.
If you wanted to hear the proposal,
you could have heard it 40 times.
It's been talked about all over.
Dr. Cotler wants to speak.
Tag is talking about getting
accurate information.
ACT UP is talking about
making drugs available.
There should be a way to mesh those
two, it's really not one or the other.
Your two groups are really
talking past one another.
Try not to scream, try not to
go at each other's throats,
but just talk, because the
differences really can be bridged.
No, no, no.
- Hey!
- Shh...
'93 to '95 were the worst years.
It was a really terrifying time.
They were the worst years.
And then we got lucky.
You know, just losing...
And, uh...
Just so many...
So many good people.
And... uh...
You know, like any war,
you wonder why you came home.
Mark collected all of
our writings, pieces that all of
us had done about what had gone
wrong in the ways that we studied
previous drugs, and what
we were already doing wrong in
terms of trying to figure out
whether the protease inhibitors
worked, and we published it
as this big report and started
passing them out everywhere we went.
Let's do this study.
They elevated themselves by
their own self-education about
these things, and then it became
very, very clear that you
weren't gonna mess with these
people because they knew exactly
what you were talking about, and
they knew exactly what they
were talking about.
Activists created a system
that was able to do everything
faster, better, cheaper, more
ethically, and more effectively.
They forced people to put
together the right clinical
trials where you had the patient in
mind, and you weren't cutting corners.
And of course, the big
breakthrough was combination
therapy, 'cause mono-therapy
was clearly not the way to go.
So let's go back into patients,
and let's go back into
patients with crixivan plus A.Z.T.
Plus 3tc.
The activists proposed a study
design, industry used it.
It got the drug
approved in six months.
So I was at a meeting in
Washington, and I stood up
there and I showed for the first
time the data in the study.
The data goes up on the screen and
everyone gasps and cameras start to click.
And just, it's a realization that this
is, this is really great drug, and it,
it could work.
I remember sitting there in a
hotel room in Washington, D.C.,
our hotel banquet room,
and just crying.
It was like, we did it.
We did something.
It was too much to
take in at that point.
It wasn't until we started
putting the drugs in our bodies
and we all went home and...
Started, went straight on that
regimen that had been on that
slide, including crixivan and
two nucleoside analogues.
And sure enough, it happened in
us within 30 days, all of us.
Undetectable, undetectable,
The dying was stopping with
triple drug combination.
And if you needed your clinical
trial, you could just go to
these hospitals that were not
filling up the way they were
filling up with people with HIV.
You would see their Kaposi's
sarcoma lesions that had been
bright and red and, um, big,
melting back into their skin.
They were calling it
the Lazarus effect.
People who were deathly ill,
would get put on this drug
and all of a sudden,
they're working again.
That was a phenomenal feeling.
It worked.
You know, we did
something remarkable.
So that breakthrough, you
know, that we thought was
gonna happen in '88 or '89 if we
just worked fast enough,
you know, it did happen.
But not until '96, and so...
You know, a lot of people died.
Maybe if Reagan had started
putting money into AIDS
a little earlier...
They wouldn't all be dead.
I feel very fortunate, and
there's probably a lot of
complicated reasons why,
but I still find it very
difficult to plan for the
future, and/or accept that
I will have a long life.
Which is unfortunate because
I've had a long life and I've been
living with AIDS for 20 years.
But it's hard for me
to relax into life.
I know lots of us went through
really difficult times after...
Um, trying to figure out,
well, what do I do now?
You know.
Not just because I didn't think
I had a future and now I do,
so I have to make some plans, but... how
do I do something else that is as...
I mean, it's a weird word, but as
fulfilling as that work has been.
To be that threatened with
extinction, um...
And to not lay down, um...
To stand up and to fight back.
The way we did it, the way
we took care of ourselves,
and each other, the goodness
that we showed, the humanity
that we showed the world
is just mind-boggling.
Just incredible.
Fight AIDS!
Fight back!
Fight AIDS!
Every single drug that's out there is
because of ACT UP, I am convinced.
We had the brainpower and
we had the street power.
We had the good cops
and the bad cops.
The government didn't
get us the drugs.
No one else got us the drugs.
We, ACT UP, got those
drugs out there.
It is the proudest achievement
that the gay population of
this world can ever claim.
We could do it because we
could deliver hundreds and
sometimes thousands of bodies.
We had people with AIDS putting
their bodies on the line,
flopping out in the streets, saying
"fine, this is my body, take me away."
I drew the line there.
I didn't want to get arrested.
That far I wouldn't go.
Keeping up,
keeping up with the
feeling, oh, yeah
getting to know what you like
and what you love
I'd like to close with words written
by fellow AIDS activist, Vito Russo.
"When future generations ask
what we did in the war, we have
to be able to tell them that we
were out here fighting, and we
have to leave a legacy to the generations
of people who will come after us.
Remember that someday the
AIDS crisis will be over.
And when that day has come and
gone, there will be a people
alive on this earth, gay
people and straight people,
black people and white people,
men and women who will hear
the story that once there was a
terrible disease, and that a
brave group of people stood up and fought...
and in some cases
died... so that others
might live and be free."
And there's,
and there's, and there's
no end in sight
and there's, and there's,
and there's no end in sight
We might have a federal
charge against us...
Leavenworth, here we come. invoice?
Keeping up
keeping up
Green, green...
Ouch, that hurts.
Keeping it up, keeping it up
Information is essential so
that doctors and patients
can make intelligent
treatment decisions.
Okay, all right.
Do I have to hold
the red button?
No, you can let go.
I'm really glad to
see everybody here.
You look really good.
Try to keep up in time.
I'd like to suggest that
we not be unethical, to do
a randomized trial of two
different prevention programs.
If we don't eradicate HIV everywhere,
we will never eradicate it anywhere.
Keeping up
keeping up
We may march without incident
or they may arrest us.
But it'll be fun.
...plane insky magazine.
We're going to ad-min today.
and there's, and there's,
and there's no end in sight
and there's, and there's,
and there's no end in sight
keeping up
In just over, um, two years,
um, that drug went from
test tube to full approval.
Heartbeat won't go slow
and when it's knowing you
will be there tonight
keeping up