Synopsis by Mark Deming
When the medical community first recognized AIDS in the 1980s, it was initially considered a death sentence, claiming nearly everyone diagnosed with the HIV virus until 1996, when antiretroviral medications were introduced that marked a major breakthrough in treatment of AIDS. However, while the new drugs were effective in helping patients live with the disease, they were also expensive, and as AIDS began to spread through Africa, India, and other Third World nations, claiming literally thousands of victims each day, only a tiny handful of patients could afford the new medications. Cipla, a major Indian pharmaceutical firm, set out to address this problem by formulating an affordable generic alternative, but they soon ran into a roadblock when several drug companies who owned patents on antiretroviral medicines took legal action to prevent distribution of low-cost variants on their products. The distribution of Cipla's product put life-saving drugs in the hands of ten times more patients than before, but does this humanitarian effort deny another firm's right to make a profit? This battle of principle over property is examined in the documentary Fire In The Blood, which also presents the story of the spread of AIDS in the Third World, and profiles Zackie Achmat, a South African activist who refused AIDS treatment until affordable drugs were available to all who needed them. The first feature film from director Dylan Mohan Gray, Fire In The Blood received its American premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.