How to Survive a Plague

The story of how activists and scientists tamed AIDS

By David France

AIDS Crisis, Activism, Sexual Health


Published by Picador

Shortlist 2017

An expansive yet richly detailed insider’s account of the early years of the AIDS epidemic – of the radical campaign for accessible treatment that changed the way that medical science is practised worldwide.

‘How to Survive a Plague’ is the riveting, powerful and profoundly moving story of the AIDS epidemic and the grassroots movement of activists, many of them facing their own life-or-death struggles, who grabbed the reins of scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection into a manageable disease. Around the globe, the 15.8 million people taking anti-AIDS drugs today are alive thanks to their efforts. Not since the publication of Randy Shilts’s now classic ‘And the Band Played On’ in 1987 has a book sought to measure the AIDS plague in such brutally human, intimate and soaring terms.

David France, a chronicler of AIDS from the earliest days, uses his unparalleled access to the community to illuminate the lives of dozens of extraordinary characters, including the closeted Wall Street trader-turned-activist, the high-school dropout who found purpose battling pharmaceutical giants in New York, the South African physician who helped establish the first officially recognised buyers’ club at the height of the epidemic, and the public-relations executive fighting to save his own life for the sake of his young daughter.

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