Documentary Brings AIDS/HIV Awareness to Marshall

Sarah Davis, Staff Reporter

Crowds gathered in the American streets on screen, shouting for changes to be made concerning the handling of the AIDS epidemic.

“Healthcare is a right!” protestors said. “Pump up the budget!” 

Marshall showcased the 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague” on Tuesday, Mar. 7. This screening was sponsored by Marshall Libraries, Collegiate Recovery and the LGBTQ+ Office. 

The director of the documentary is journalist and filmmaker David France. France dedicated the film to his late partner Doug Ghould, who passed away due to AIDS-induced pneumonia in 1992. 

With “How to Survive a Plague” being his first film, France went on to direct three other films, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” “Welcome to Chechnya” and “How to Survive a Pandemic.”

France described the reality of the AIDS epidemic in an interview with Collider, saying that relief did not come for those affected at the start.

“During those first six years of the epidemic, nothing was being done and no money was being spent,” he said. “The only response, delayed from the White House, came six years into the epidemic after tens of thousands of people had died, and it came in the form of a series of jokes at the White House.”

The documentary specifically highlights the activism of ACT UP and TAG—both groups that fought for the ending of the AIDS epidemic. Mostly archived footage, “How to Survive a Plague” incorporates news coverage, interviews and conferences that took place during the epidemic. 

In addition to the screening, Marshall will host various other events for AIDS/HIV and Addiction Awareness week. These include a panel discussion and resource fair.

The merging of AIDS/HIV and addiction is a necessary one, said Meghan D. Sexton-Harness, Marshall Libraries associate. 

“We chose to tie addiction into AIDS Awareness Week because it is such a large problem in this area,” she said in a Marshall University press release. “Kanawha County is currently experiencing the most alarming HIV outbreak in the country, according to the CDC. As a neighbor to Kanawha, we want to get ahead of the wave before it hits in order to save lives.”