AIDS film festival expands debate on access to medicines and strengthens role of civil society

Río de Janeiro, September 10th, 2015 – On August 31st (Rio de Janeiro) and December 2nd (Sao Paulo) a special edition of the AIDS Film Festival took place that focused on access to medicines. The festival was organized by GTPI in collaboration with ABIA and ‘Pela Vida’-SP which is also member of GTPI. The film festival has existed for over 15 years and it has always been an event that contributes to the AIDS movement. This year, the main topic -access to medicines- presented the films ‘How to survive a plague’ and ‘Fire on the veins’. Both movies strengthen the important role that civil society has to provide visibility to the struggle against AIDS as a global priority and set access to medicines as a central topic of the AIDS debate.

Films that highlight the important role of civil society

The movies that participated in the Festival portray different moments of the AIDS activism. ‘How to survive a plague’ narrates the actions that ACT-UP carried out in the US against the government and pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the research and regulatory processes on new drugs from 1986 to 1996. ‘Fire on the veins’ narrates events that happened between 1996 and 2006, when treatments with drug combinations were already available in high-income countries to control HIV infection while millions of PLHIV died in middle-income countries because of the high prices of these treatments. The movie highlights how pharmaceutical companies blocked access to medicines at affordable prices and the role of civil society to confront them and guarantee access to medicines for all.

We intend to collect remarkable stories about activism, mobilization and resistance that are undoubtedly inspiring to continue coping with today’s obstacles. Most of our work is to preserve the achievements shown in the movies” affirmed Pedro Villardi, GTPI´s Coordinator. Both movies presentations were followed by debates with participation of Brazilian CSOs, the director of ‘How to survive a plague’ and other key actors such as parliamentarians and experts on medicines production.

Debate in Río de Janeiro stressed importance of Congress-CSOs cooperation

On August 31st at Cinemateca MAM (Río de Janeiro), during the presentation of the film ‘Fire on the veins’, a discussion panel was held with participation of experts such as federal congressman Jean Wyllys (PSOL/RJ), film director Dylan Gray, GTPI’s coordinator Pedro Villardi, ‘Para Vida’-SP coordinator Eduardo Barbosa, Felipe Carvalho from Doctors Without Borders and Eloan Pinheiro, former director of Farmanguinhos, main Brazilian public production laboratory.

During the debate, Pedro Villardi welcomed Eduardo Barbosa and contextualized the topics depicted on the films to highlight the role of AIDS activism on to the implementation of new public policies in Brazil. Jean Wyllys, member of the AIDS Parliamentarian Group, affirmed to be one of the most active members and highlighted the importance of an articulation between government and civil society. Jean stressed the significance of working on topics such as the discrimination, stigma and social vulnerability of the communities affected by AIDS. Regarding pharmaceutical patents, congressman Wyllys pointed out how the Brazilian Congress is dominated by economic interest and, thus, it is necessary that the civil society articulates a strong opposition with the support of ‘Frente Parlamentario del SIDA’.

Film director Dylan Gray affirmed that his motivation to make this film was the realization that it had never been documented the controversy around the issue of access to medicines for AIDS – an illness that has already killed more people than the Holocaust. Felipe Carvalho, from DWB, affirmed peoples is becoming increasingly aware of the failures in the patient system, not only in terms of access to medicines but also in terms of scientific innovation. ‘The creation of alternatives for this system is the only way to prevent the genocide showed in the movie’ affirmed Eloan Pinheiro, who was in charge of starting drug public production in Brazil that managed to lower the prices of AIDS medicines. She expressed her dismay on the current political scenario where the Congress is extremely conservative and the Executive Branch only has political freedom. Mrs Pinheiro informed that mobilization must emerge from civil society and be sustained so that patents are erased from the international commerce system in order for countries to regain sovereignty and to prioritize public health and not private profit.

Debate in Sao Paulo marked by ‘Grupo Pela Vida’’s anniversary and prevention campaign

During the projection of ‘How to survive a plague’ and ‘Fire on the veins’ in Sao Paulo, film director Dylan Gray, Pauline Londeix –former Vice-President of ACT-UP Paris Group-, Marcela Vieira –GTPI’s coordinator-, Eduardo Barbosa –‘Grupo Pela Vida’’s coordinator-, Jorge Beloqui from GVI and Felipe Carvalho from Doctors without Borders participated in a discussion panel.

The debate discussed the problem of high prices of new medicines for HIV/AIDS and the problem of access for new drugs to treat Hepatitis C. According to the lecturers, international mobilization around new drugs for Hepatitis C is very similar to the mobilization for access to medicines for HIV/AIDS. The audience asked questions about the behind the scene of the interviews and about how to foster transformation in Brazil to guarantee the reduction of prices and to guarantee universal access to medicines.

During the festival it was also celebrates the 26th anniversary of ‘Grupo Pela Vida’-SP. In associations with CRD, GPV launched a campaign addressed to the MSM community. The campaign’s main message is: ‘Use condoms; get tested; find treatment if the result is positive’.