From the era of AIDS comes a story of beating the odds.
1995: The AIDS epidemic had raged unchecked for fourteen years. None of the treatments yet developed seemed capable of stopping HIV. More than three hundred thousand people had already died in the U.S. alone. Another half million Americans were living with the virus and, of those, tens of thousands were in the final stages of the disease. They could not expect to live to see another year. Malcom Gregory Scott was among them. He had been diagnosed with HIV in 1987, while being discharged from the Navy for homosexuality, and by the summer of 1995, he couldn’t imagine surviving another winter. His t-cells — a surrogate marker for immune system health —had been too few to count for more than a year. He had lost more than a third of his healthy body weight to AIDS wasting syndrome, exacerbated by severe microsporixdiosis. The tell-tale purple spots of Kaposi’s sarcoma had disfigured his face and thrush filled his throat to near choking. The handfuls of prophylaxes — pills to prevent or mitigate seemingly every infection a human might suffer — brought their own miseries. He knew he was dying. In this darkest of hours, one glimmer of hope kept Malcom alive: a class of investigative new drugs called protease inhibitors, available in very limited supply, and needed by tens of thousands of people who would die without them.
It was a matter of life… and chance…
The Lazarus Lotteries is the story of how those lifesaving drugs got into the hands of a few lucky people in the nick of time — through unusual compassionate access protocols that selected participants through randomized drawings, or “lotteries” — resulting in recoveries so dramatic that the media compared them to Lazarus rising from the dead.
It is a story of unlikely survival, it is a story of a small group of activists’ successful persistence and, most of all, it is a story of hope: the hope of researchers who had begun seven years earlier with little more to go on than a scientist’s intuition, the hope of doctors and caregivers, desperate to make a difference in what now seemed an ever more hopeless fight, and the hope of people with AIDS themselves, who now clung to life as never before because, for the first time, they thought they had a chance.
It is also a rarely told story. Now, with community support, independent filmmaker Carly McCarthy will follow long-term AIDS survivor Malcom Gregory Scott on his quest to find other survivors like him who experienced Lazarus-like recoveries, and document the first-hand accounts of researchers, doctors, public health workers, activists, and other witnesses to this turning point in AIDS history.
Do you have a first hand account of:
- the development of protease inhibitors,
- the activism that held the drugmakers accountable
- the 1995 compassionate access lotteries,
- participating in the lotteries yourself, (regardless whether your number came up) or
- caring for someone who participated in the lotteries?
If so, the producers would love to hear from you. Please consider sharing your experience, either on camera for possible inclusion in the film, or off the record just to help us understand the story better.
A Community Supported Project
Already, the Lazarus Lotteries film project has raised critical seed money through our gofundme campaign. That money purchased ads in LGBTQ newspapers to augment a social media campaign aimed at finding other long-term AIDS survivors who participated in the lotteries or had a Lazarus-like recovery, allowed the project to acquire needed equipment, and funded covid-era-travel that yielded hours of new footage. But we’ve only just begun, and now we need your help. Your financial contribution to The Lazarus Lotteries film project will help us document this rarely told story.
Until July 31, 2022, we’ll acknowledge all donations of any amount with an artfully illustrated zine about how Malcom and Carly met, and show our appreciation for larger gifts with the film’s first merchandise.
Your donation amount: Our gift to you:
$50 or more Lazarus Lotteries bandanna
$100 or more Lazarus Lotteries tee shirt
$1000 or more ` Option to be named in film credits
Remember, these incentives are available only until July 31, 2022, and only while supplies last. Donors will be contacted during the incentive period for shipping address and shirt size. Merchandise will not ship immediately.
If you donated to the project between June 21, 2022 and July 31, 2022, please contact us with your mailing address, and t-shirt size, if applicable, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your gift, no matter the size, is vital to documenting this rarely told chapter in AIDS history. Please give all you can.