David France, an American investigative reporter and filmmaker, has documented the struggle of two coalitions fighting against AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s -- the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and the Treatment Action Group (TAG) -- in his film How to Survive a Plague
. It screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and is running at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Friday, Nov 9.
A special Toronto screening will be held by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), as part of this year's research conference, for the benefit of the Friends for Life Bike Rally. Mark Fisher, the director of IT at the OHTN and a member of the Friends for Life steering committee, brings us closer to the heart of the film by sharing his own experiences as an advocate.
Brian Bantugan: How did the film affect you?
Mark Fisher: The film made me realize what a critical role we all play in making change and the power of collective voice, passion and determination. The film left me feeling somewhat ashamed of myself. I felt ashamed for all the times I gave up or didn’t attempt to do something because I thought it was too difficult to make someone listen to me or my cause. I also felt a deep sense of gratitude to all these people who didn’t back down, who made people pay attention and have allowed me to love and know so many wonderful people that I may not have ever met had it not been for these people who changed the course of a plague!
How does the film relate to the OHTN research conference’s objectives?
The theme of this year's OHTN conference is Research with Real-Life Impact. The conference focus is on research that has tangible outcomes and impacts on the lives of people living with HIV, as well as the need for more impact-focused research. This conference brings together researchers, policy makers, PHAs, students and health professionals to learn about what is happening and exchange ideas. How to Survive a Plague
is about activism with real-life impact. It is the heart of what the OHTN conference is about and demonstrates the power of activists to accelerate research that makes a noticeable difference in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. It shows how the community activists engaged with medical allies who explained how clinical trials work, how to read journals and how to speak to the media. Armed with their expertise, they challenged government and medical authorities to understand the impact of their ignorance and to take the actions needed to end this disease and support people living with HIV/AIDS.
What's special about the 15th Friends for Life Bike Rally?
The 15th anniversary of the bike rally will celebrate the ride's growth and impact over the years. The Bike Rally is now the largest AIDS fundraiser in Canada, beginning with $43,000 raised in 1999 to $1.3 million in 2012. We now have over 400 participants in the bike rally and plan to make the 15th the biggest yet, with an increase in both returning participants and new people joining the bike rally family for the first time. As part of the 15th anniversary efforts we will be holding special events to increase awareness of both the bike rally itself and the work of the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.
How to Survive a Plague
's Friends for Life screening is Mon, Nov 12 at 7:30pm at the Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St W. Donations accepted. surviveaplague.com