‘The way I was feeling in May, it was like I was already dead’: The Lazarus Effect
This remarkable half hour film documents a modern phenomenon called the Lazarus Effect.The film’s title comes from the biblical figure of Lazarus, who was brought back to life by Jesus after four days dead.
In reality, a similar type of miracle is happening all over the world, in the form of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS.
This video, produced in collaboration with the (Red) campaign provides us with an insight into living with HIV in the developing world. It shows people of all ages at very serious stages of their illness, all whom are able to make a rapid recovery. The incredible part is that it shows you exactly how far along you can progress with the disease and still almost do a U-turn after taking ARVs. With these drugs, less and less people are deemed a lost cause.
The drugs work, so why is that people are still dying? In other words, what are the complicating issues? Money is one. More free ARVs are becoming available, but in places where the drugs are not free, it is often a choice between buying the medicine or feeding your family.
Social stigma is another problem. Where the subject is not spoken about openly, people with HIV receive no support in the community. Alone and afraid, sometimes it feels better to pretend it is not happening at all.
General lack of information about HIV and ARVs means that many people do not get tested at all. I’ll confess that until I did a bit of research (readily available on the internet), I didn’t really know much about antiretrovirals. How long does it take before you feel better? Are there any circumstances in which they don’t work? Do they work in preventing mother to child transmission during pregnancy?
With all these questions, and no official information its would be easy to make incorrect assumptions which might result in not taking the drugs on time, or not getting tested at all. To those who don’t know about ARVs, having HIV equates to a death sentence.
Work is being done to overcome these obstacles. The video features a woman named Constance Mudenda, who works tirelessly in Zambia to create a network of support for HIV sufferers. Having lost all three of her children to the disease, she no longer wants people to have to endure that kind of grief.
Initiatives such as Constance’s support group, help to eradicate the social alienation of being HIV positive. All the peer educators in her clinic are HIV positive, so they can speak from experience, gain the patient’s trust and talk openly about the disease.
People can turn their future around once they start taking ARVs, but this does not happen without the right environment. People need accurate information, support, and a forum to communicate with others. If the information is there but no one is receiving it, then it may as well not exist.
The Lazarus Effect is truly a miracle of science, and thankfully more people are living longer with HIV. However, there is always the human aspect to consider. Aid programs that distribute antiretroviral drugs must also factor in the importance of creating an enabling environment, in order to effect the change they want.
With the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund, there's an opportunity for all of us to contribute to making sure that we have the funds to scale up the fight against Malaria. That's why we've teamed up with our partners at RESULTS UK, and are giving people the in the UK the chance to write to your local MP about the Global Fund. If you're in another country, you can use the same information as the base to contact your local politicians to ask them to ensure that your government does their bit too.