With nearly 40 million people killed and 30 million infected, AIDS is to date the most destructive pandemic in modern history. In an effort to combat the virus, a team of scientists travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate human specimens containing the virus. They conclude that the first transmission of AIDS - from chimpanzees to humans - was around the year 1908, decades before the first cases were known.
Researchers explore the colonial history of the Congo to explain how HIV spread. In the early twentieth century, anxious not to lose the indigenous labor they exploit, the colonial authorities launch mass vaccination campaigns against sleeping sickness, often using inadequately sterilized syringes. Meanwhile, the railway is developing in the country because Kinshasa is a hub of the mining industry. The virus follows in its trail. When the Congolese celebrate their independence in 1960, the pandemic is smoldering, ready to ravage the country and, later, sub-Saharan Africa.
Carl Gierstorfer presents a documentary, where modern scientific inquiry is mixed with archival footage, sometimes painful, reflecting the cruelty and devastation of colonization. It also signals that the conditions for a new pandemic are still present.
The film will premiere on Arte in Germany and France and across stations globally in advance of World AIDS day, December 1, 2014.
ARTE Germany: 09:50pm, November 28