a video documentary exploring the excessive profiteering of pharmaceutical companies from AIDS drugs commissioned by RAI 3 television Italy.
Includes interviews with Gail and Nkosi Johnson, Dr. Glenda Gray, Edwin Cameron and Zackie Achmat.
In developed countries, thanks to the availability of anti-retroviral treatments, HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it used to be. It has become another chronic but manageable condition. Yet in developing countries these life saving treatments are priced way beyond the reach of anybody except the extremely wealthy. Pharmaceutical companies use international patent laws to charge inflated prices on drugs, which are cheap to produce.
“The Bottom Line” explores this tragic situation through following a diversity of HIV positive people’s lives in South Africa. Told in a visually intimate way the personal stories highlight the real life drama between death and ruthless commerce. These are tales and struggle and courage told within the context of the greed and excessive profiteering of multi- national drug companies.
AIDS goes beyond the very personal fact that a virus is replicating in your body, it starkly highlights social, political, economic and global issues.
South Africa 52min 2000
contact Other-Wise media for a copy of the documentary
Below is an excerpt from the thesis ‘HIV/AIDS in South African Documentary Film’ by Rebecca Hodes
She named the Bottom Line as the best example of South African documentaries looking at the lack of treatment access for people with HIV/AIDS
(The Bottom Line) focused on both the ‘monstrous iniquity’ of the pharmaceutical corporations’ patent and pricing regime, as well as the failure of the South African government to dispense generic antiretrovirals to its HIV positive citizens by taking advantage of the national emergency clause in TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), the 1994 World Trade Organisation agreement that aims to enforce stringent laws regarding intellectual property.
Through the use of provocative juxtaposition, the documentary illustrated the injustice of government incapacity and corporate greed. Zackie Achmat, a founder and leading figure of the TAC (Treatment Action Campaign), roused a crowd of protesters in the language of anti-apartheid resistance by shouting: ‘Amandla! We are fighting a cause which constantly reminds you that if you don’t win you are going to die!’ By comparing the fight against HIV/AIDS with the fight against the apartheid regime, Achmat empahsised that the struggle for the survival of South Africa was continuing albeit in a different form. Another compelling juxtaposition in The Bottom Line was presented by an image of hundreds of fresh, unmarked graves, while an interviewee implored: ‘We want to live, we want to survive. Everyone wants to survive’. This was directly followed by a scene of a factory conveyor belt carrying thousands of white tablets. One-screen text read: ‘Multinational pharmaceuticals are some of the most successful corporations in the world. They regularly post annual profits of up to 22, whereas most multinationals are satisfied with 5%’.