In a selfless effort to raise awareness worldwide about the impact that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs have in curing HIV and AIDS, HBO is set to air a new documentary, titled ‘The Lazarus Effect.’ The documentary, which was directed by Lance Bangs and executive produced by Spike Jones, subtly parallels the journey that the more than 29 million people living with HIV or AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa go through every day to the Biblical story of Lazarus.
The documentary also brilliantly shows the struggles and triumphs that Africans living with HIV or AIDS face and overcome. Bangs interviewed four people who live in Lusaka, Zambia, and have been diagnosed with the disease. Their journeys back to health show that their lives do, indeed, resemble the story of the Lazarus Effect.
The first powerful shot of ‘The Lazarus Effect’ is of an African woman, who is clearly sick, explaining the story of Lazarus. She detailed how Jesus walked into Lazarus’ grave after he died and pulled him out, saying he would live again. She then says it’s a story of hope, which Bangs showed was the case with the four people he documented.
These people include Bwalya, an 11-year-old orphan; Paul Nsangu, a young man who is married and has a daughter; Concillia Muhau, who has a daughter that is virus-free; and Constance (Connie) Mudenda, an HIV Peer Education Supervisor.
After her and her husband were both diagnosed with HIV, Connie was able to courageously move forward with her life, even though they had to decide to either pay for their ARVs or for food. After hearing about a clinic that offered free drugs, she was one of the first people to enroll.
Connie now works as a Peer Education Supervisor at the same clinic. She helps fund the 40 cents a day needed for the ARVs, which most patients can’t afford. She also selflessly educates people how to stay healthy with the disease and how they can prevent transmitting it to others.
Connie also rightfully encourages patients to attend support groups. While people in Lusaka were at first afraid to go to the group because they were fearful of the stigma that surrounds it, she resiliently expanded the group from five patients to most of the community.
‘The Lazarus Effect’ was produced by HBO Documentary Films, in conjunction with the private sector (RED) and Anonymous Content. It is set to premiere on Monday, May 24 at 9pm EST, as part of a large-scale campaign (RED) has launched to show the impact that AIDS programs have throughout Africa.
HBO should be praised for taking a step back on showing just purely entertainment movies and instead also focusing on life-threatening issues. The world can come to realize that through the help of (RED) and several health organizations, including The Global Fund and The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Africans inflicted with HIV or AIDS can survive by taking ARVs. The drugs are paid for by the organizations, who also want to help educate people living with the disease on how to stay healthy.
With the help of ‘The Lazarus Effect,’ (RED) and its partners, including Apple, Gap and Hallmark, the impact and benefits ARVS have in treating AIDS in Africa really has a way to reach more people than ever before. Viewers will most likely not only empathize with those inflicted with HIV or AIDS, but they will also want to help fight the pandemic any way they can.
Written by: Karen Benardello