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Former Mayor Ed Koch Reviews HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE

Ed KochAmazing how he fails to mention his own shameful role in this film, or this history...

Ed Koch Movie Reviews

"How to Survive a Plague" (+) 
October 9, 2012
The plague referred to in this film is H.I.V./AIDS. The documentary describes the efforts of the organization known as Act Up to focus public and government attention on the crisis. Act Up was the brainchild of Larry Kramer who was also responsible for creating the Gay Men's Health Crisis.
The plague began in 1981 when a handful of gay men in San Francisco were struck down with a new disease. It was a form of cancer initially referred to by doctors as the gay men's disease or cancer. No known treatment was available. With the passage of time, drugs were developed that helped to delay death and deal with the opportunistic diseases, e.g. Karposi's Sarcoma, blindness and pneumonia. Finally the protease inhibitor was developed which was capable of reducing the H.I.V. virus to zero, creating what has become known as the Lazarus effect. It was developed in 1996 which, while not a cure, treated the disease, making it chronic in nature, instead of a death sentence as had been the case. 
During that 15-year period, some exceptional people in the gay community mastered the knowledge and medical jargon enabling them to speak knowledgeably about the crisis with doctors and scientists. They were able to move government and the private sector, primarily drug companies, to search for effective treatments. When the drugs were available, they pressured the pharmaceutical companies to reduce retail prices. The first widely-available drug during that period, AZT, cost $10,000 annually per person. Through demonstrations and a willingness to be arrested, Act Up was able to get that cost reduced. The civil disobedience tactics of its members also forced the FDA to make the drugs available earlier than normal, hurrying the tests, which was not always good. 
While demonstrations were necessary to keep the issue on the front burner, Act Up protesters occasionally went too far, e.g., when they entered St. Patrick's Cathedral, took communion hosts from the priest's hands, and threw the wafers to the ground insulting many Catholics. Those wafers are, for Catholics, the Body of Christ.
The person who makes the greatest impact in the film because of his superb speaking ability is Peter Staley. In his New York Times review of this movie, Stephen Holden describes Staley as: "A former closeted Wall Street bond trader with H.I.V. who left his job and helped found the Treatment Action Group, an offshoot of Act Up. Self-taught in the science of AIDS, the group collaborated with pharmaceutical companies like Merck in the development of new drugs."
Others named in the Times' review as major leaders of Act Up, which began its activities in 1987, are Larry Kramer, Robert Rafsky and Ann Northrop, all of whom appear in the film. I don't know if these individuals were ever honored by the White House for what they did in fighting government and powerful corporations. If not, I urge President Obama to do so by presenting them and other leaders recognized by Act Up with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This superb documentary directed by David France should not be missed. Regrettably, when I saw it on a Sunday at 2:00 p.m., there were only about ten other people in the theater.
I urge our Chancellor of Education to show the documentary in our public schools. It would teach children a lot of lessons, the chief one being the community can, working together, speak truth to power and win. 

Peter on:


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Comments on Peter Staley's blog entry "Former Mayor Ed Koch Reviews HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE"

What is this evil man up to as he approaches his death? Is he trying to make up to us? National Medals of Freedom from the White House! Would these provide a big enough enema to clean out his rotten insides? We must never forget that this man was an active participant in helping us to die, in murdering us. Call it what you will, that is what Edward Koch was, a murderer of his very own people. There is no way to avoid knowing that now. The facts have long since been there staring us in the face. If we don't see them, then we are as complicit as he.

Larry Kramer

And how does Christine Quinn, who pumps her fists in the air at every gay event in town (while betraying the community behind the scenes) hold Koch accountable for being an AIDS criminal? She forces the NYC Council to rename the Queensboro Bridge after him -- in exchange for his endorsement for her Mayoral candidacy. Koch and Quinn deserve each other; they are both destructive forces in NYC.



Your revisionist history will not save your soul from what you did *( AND DID NOT DO).

My GOD have mercy on your soul, for we WILL NOT forget.

Does he really think plugging a White House medal for us is going to buy him forgiveness, or change our political views? I'm glad he saw the film, and gave it a positive review, but it was missing two words: "I'm sorry." Not to me. Not to Larry. But to the thousands lost, and all who still mourn them.

What do you expect from a man who abandoned his lover and left him to die alone? it was a San Francisco plague. No wonder you excuse yourself from your inaction in NYC. The film is powerful, but when we 'spoke truth to power' we only won because we were willing to risk having you unleash police beatings and arrests on us.

Apologies do not come from the mouths of ignorant men. Apologies come from men of knowledge, who have learned from their actions, and are willing and able to see the miss steps in their past.

Ed Koch, blindly ignorant and always looking the other way.

L. Robert Westeen

I would appreciate some of the commentators providing some specifics about their point against Ed Koch.

Nice to see Larry Kramer remaining a bitter old queen to the end.

I fully agree with the comments made above by Larry Kramer, Peter Staley, and Donny Moss. Koch was mayor of New York from 1978 through 1989. A horrific number of New Yorkers died of AIDS during that time. As is documented in THE NORMAL HEART--which I first saw at the Public Theater in 1985--some of the blood of those New Yorkers who died, some of them friends of mine--is on Ed Koch's hands. Of course he is correct that leaders of ACT UP should be honored by the White House. But Koch's statement is hypocrisy at its absolute highest.

If you want to know the specifics of Ed Koch's machinations, get the documentary Outrage. Do Ask. Do Tell. by Kirby Dick.

Why are we bothering even talking about this man.
He's got a foot on his grave and he other in his mouth.

Having just seen Plague, I find Koch's unreflective review simply astonishing. Plus he spends a lot of it cribbing from the New York Times. For once, Larry Kramer is not harsh enough!

Congratulations on becoming an Out100 Honoree Peter! Yay!

I know young people who have been incredibly moved by "How to Survive a Plague."

There is no doubt that we owe our lives to the early voices of Peter Staley, Larry Kramer, Mark Harrington, and so many others.

That said, maybe I'm becoming inured to these documentaries, because I feel like I've seen better.

Yes, in the 1980s, too many in our community spent their last days looking like Halocaust victims. So many, many died. But, you know, a lot's happened since 1995.

Today, undetectable viral loads are the norm for those diagnosed with HIV in developed countries. Guys still have routine bareback sex because, well, it's the human thing to do. You've also got bb parties and the "gift giving/bug chasing" subcultures. Many people on hookup sites advertise their HIV status as "Don't Know" or "Don't Care."

There's more to our story and I'd like to see someone continue it.

I just saw the movie two nights ago and am still buzzing from it. I knew this would be the case and I avoided it for weeks until the return run at IFC allowed me to see on the big screen. It is beautiful and powerful. It is sort of like a Mt. Rushmore-sized sculpture of Peter, Mark, David, Spencer, Larry, etc.

Clearly it is a major piece of the history of ACTUP and HIV treatment. But David France is not pretending that this is a comprehensive history, but the story of how the process of research and development of treatments was pushed along through activism.

ACTUP had other huge impacts as well, on political culture, on art as activism, on the way we all thought of ourselves. ACTUP's progeny rippled outward through groups like Queer Nation and Lesbian Avengers It also birthed new models of services and oversight with the Ryan White Care Act. PLWHA's were put on planning councils around the country. Service organizations like Housing Works and the LES Harm Reduction Coalition grew directly out of ACTUP.

These histories deserve to be told as richly as the treatment story in this film. Hopefully, someone as talented as David France will take those on as well.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Staley published on October 12, 2012 10:52 AM.

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