Streaming Access
Unfortunately, this film is not available for streaming yet.
As soon as it will be available for streaming, it will appear in your university streaming page.

How to Survive a Plague


Faced with their own mortality, an improbable group of mostly HIV-positive young men and women broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. How To Survive A Plague is the story of how activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.


  • A.O. Scott, NYTimes
    "One of the 25 Best Films of The Year"
  • Bruce Diones, The New Yorker
    The eloquence of the movement’s primary speakers makes this film moving and essential.
    Bruce Diones
  • Frank Bruni, NYTimes
    "A model for the here and now of how social change occurs."
    Frank Bruni
  • David Edelstein, New York Magazine
    "One of the Top 10 Movies of the Year"
  • Entertainment Weekly
    "...Quickens the pulse like a thriller and rouses passions as well as any drama."
  • David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
    "Words like 'important' and 'inspiring' tend too often to be meaninglessly attached to non-fiction filmmaking, but in the case of David France's compelling snapshot of a revolutionary period in AIDS treatment, they are amply justified... An epic celebration of heroism and tenacity, and less directly, a useful template for any fledgling activist movement, demonstrating the effectiveness of inside/outside strategy."
    David Rooney
  • David Ansen, Newsweek
    "...Former Newsweek writer David France artfully recounts the history of the activist group 'ACT UP' -- whose iconic logo was SILENCE=DEATH -- in his masterly film HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE."
    David Ansen
  • Mary Pols, Time Magazine
    "Even if you lived through this era, went to protests, wept over the AIDS quilt and believed yourself aware, director David France's assured, seamless directorial debut, rich with archival footage, will teach you something about courage, dedication and the power of well-directed anger."
    Mary Pols
  • Stephen Holden, NYTimes
    "The currents of rage, fear, fiery determination and finally triumph that crackle through David France's inspiring documentary, HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, lend this history of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power a scorching electrical charge."
  • Frank Bruni, NYTimes
    "I sat down to watch HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, a new documentary about the history of the AIDS epidemic, expecting to cry, and cry I did...I expected to be angry. Here, too, I wasn't disappointed. What I didn't expect was how much hope I would feel. How much comfort. While the movie vividly chronicles the wages of bigotry and neglect, it even more vividly chronicles how much society can budge when the people exhorting it to are united and determined and smart and right. The fight in us eclipses the sloth and surrender, and the good really does outweigh the bad. That's a takeaway of HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE and that's a takeaway of the AIDS crisis as well."
  • Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
    "Rigorous, impassioned, and powerful-as-hell."
    Lisa Schwarzbaum
  • Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
    "As this stirring, scrupulous doc reveals, the members of ACT UP fused the fervor of revolutionaries, the tenacity of trial lawyers, and the rage of the dispossessed to change the very shape of the epidemic. In doing so, they found hope where there had been only death..."
  • Ella Taylor, NPR
    "What saved the day was the stubborn persistence of its members, together with the scientific breakthroughs that led to protease inhibitors and combination therapies. Those new tools restored many near-corpses to life and cut the number of AIDS-related deaths in New York by a staggering 50 percent...Occupy movements, take note."
    Ella Taylor
  • Dana Stevens, Slate
    "One of the ten best movies of 2012... If its essence could be bottled, David France's fierce, heartbreaking documentary about the very early days of AIDS activism could serve as a tonic for demoralized political organizers, a bracing reminder that change is possible when a group of committed people come together to fight injustice, indifference, and prejudice...don't miss this cathartic, inspiring film."
  • The Guradian
    How to Survive a Plague is a compellingly watchable portrait of a battle fought under that most memorable rallying cry: "Silence = Death". Bravo.

    Mark Kermode

Festival Participation

  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Boston Independent Film Festival - 2012
    Audience Award
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Hamptons International Film Festival
  • San Francisco International Film Festival
  • Traverse City Film Festival
  • True/False Film Fest
  • Academy Awards
    2012 Nominee, Best Documentary Feature

Additional Materials

Distribution Company

Back to Film Summary

This Week’s Featured Films