HIV/AIDS has killed more than 20 million people in Africa, but it is a preventable and treatable disease. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which block HIV’s assault on the body’s immune system, can transform the lives of people from near death to health in as little as three months.
In 2002, more than 29 million individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa had HIV, yet only 50,000 people could afford the $10,000 a year they needed for the treatment to stay alive. Today, however, thanks to organizations throughout the world, more than three million people are treated at a reduced cost of around 40 cents a day.
Produced in association with (RED) and Anonymous Content, the exclusive HBO documentary ‘The Lazarus Effect’ records the extraordinary life-restoring effects of ARVs on four HIV-positive individuals from Lusaka, Zambia when it debuts Monday, MAY 24 (9:00-9:35 PM ET/PT).
Other HBO playdates: May 24 (5:20 AM) and 28 (3:30 PM)
HBO2 playdates: May 26 (9:00 PM) and June 25 (3:45 PM)
Directed by Lance Bangs and executive produced by Spike Jonze and Susan Smith Ellis, ‘The Lazarus Effect’ chronicles the true-life resurrections of people who only a few years ago would have had no chance of survival, including Constance (Connie) Mudenda, who lost all three of her children to AIDS before ARV treatment was available. Mudenda eventually heard about a clinic that made free drugs available and became one of the first people to enroll in the program. She has since become an HIV Peer Education Supervisor, educating and helping save the lives of countless other HIV-positive people.
The film also tracks the miraculous transformation in Bwalya, an 11-year-old orphan; Paul Nsangu, a young man fighting to stay alive for his wife and daughter; and Concillia Muhau, who, despite being HIV-positive, was able to deliver a virus-free child. ‘The Lazarus Effect’ shows all three at the beginning of their treatment when they are gravely ill, returning a few months later to follow their progression to health.
“(RED), Spike and I went into this film wanting the people in it to tell their own stories,” says director Lance Bangs. “Connie, Bwalya, Concillia and Paul represent people who now have a chance at a future when only seven years ago, a diagnosis of HIV for them would have been a death sentence. This film is a hopeful one, yet still a reminder that almost 4,000 people still die every day from AIDS in Africa, because not all people who need access to the treatment have it.”
‘The Lazarus Effect’ is the center of a multi-media campaign by (RED) to raise awareness of the impact of large-scale AIDS programs at work in sub-Saharan Africa and the life-restoring effect of ARV medicine now available to HIV-positive people for around 40 cents a day. Thanks to public health organizations like The Global Fund and The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), funding for ARVs is being provided to millions of Africans like Constance, Paul, Bwalya and Concillia. In addition to funding, these organizations are educating people on how they can stay healthy and protect themselves from contracting and spreading the HIV virus.
(RED), the largest business sector funder of the Global Fund, supported the production of the documentary to show the impact that effective, targeted aid is having in the fight against the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Says Sheila Roche, Head of Global Communications, (RED) and one of the producers of ‘The Lazarus Effect,’ “(RED) felt it was important to tell this story and share with the rest of the world the tremendous effect that providing access to life-saving treatment is having on the lives of real people and their communities throughout Africa. This is an area where big and real results are happening, for very little money. The cost of life-saving ARV medication is now 40 cents per day – that’s an incredible bargain, and we have to maintain investment in order to ensure that millions more people don’t die needlessly from this preventable and treatable disease.”