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Covid-19 is my second pandemic – third, if you also count polio, which was conquered just before I was born but whose victims were all around in my early years, their injuries haunting my dreams. HIV is my first and most formative pandemic. That viral thug hit the streets of New York the same year I did, 1981, which was also the year I came out, putting us on a collision course. The disease stole away friends and lovers but somehow I outmaneuvered it. Yet I was fully engaged with AIDS –not as a frontline activist but as an investigative journalist looking for answers, looking for hope. It is scarcely possible to convey what it was like over the 15 years between 1981 and 1996 – 15 years!– when there was not one effective medication against HIV. Then, finally, pharmaceutical breakthroughs stopped the dying. But not for everybody. Horribly, it took another decade for those drugs to reach sub-Saharan Africa, the pandemic’s white-hot epicenter. This is the worst horror of the AIDS pandemic – worse than the virus was the indifference and greed. We allowed tens of millions of people to die of what was suddenly a survivable infection.

I thought of this immediately when I first read about our new pandemic. In January 2020 scientists everywhere got to work. I knew many of them, as most were veterans of HIV research. Their confidence was comforting – and not misplaced: In just 11 months they accomplished the most remarkable scientific achievement in history, propelling a transnational vaccine “moon shot” program that produced multiple highly effective vaccines. I got to work covering them. And I hoped against hope that this time their scientific accomplishment would be matched by the political and corporate will to do the right thing globally.


How would history judge us now? How would we survive *this* pandemic? What have we learned?



Global collaboration combined with countless sacrifices from scientists, public health officials, health care workers, clinical trial volunteers and more made these miracle vaccines possible. But the work is far from over. HIstory tells us that new variants - and possibly even new pandemics - could be close in our future, requiring more research and more collaboration. We also have a long way to go to make distribution of the vaccines faster and fairer, so every human on the planet who wants to be vaccinated can do so quickly and affordably. We've organized some resoures here to learn more. Please check out the materials and links below.


HBO prepared a useful discussion guide to facilitate reflection and conversation after watching the film.


Download the press kit for the film, including more detail about how the film was made, information about the film team and more.


Viruses Mutate

Scientists explore how and why viruses mutate, and why low vaccination rates contribute to this mutation.

When do we learn? When?

The World Health Organization (WHO)'s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shares his thoughts on vaccine equity.

Go Out into Our Commuities and Try and Save Lives

The Neighborhood Reslilience Project's Father Paul Abernathy talks to his team about engaging the community.


Check out some our partners to learn more about the issues and join the fight for vaccine equity.


Ther Neighborhood Resilience Project establishes and promotes resilient healing and health communities. Learn how to start a chapter in your community.


The WHO's resource page includes advice on ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.


The WHO's resource page includes advice on ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Join the ONE Campaign's efforts to vaccinate the world.

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