How to Survive a Plague
The story of how activists and scientists tamed AIDS
AIDS Crisis, Activism, Sexual Health
Published by Picador
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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“This superbly written chronicle will stand as a towering work in its field, the best book on the pretreatment years of the epidemic since Randy Shilts’s ‘And the Band Played On’ (1987), which it corrects in places. Most of the people to whom it bears witness are not around to read it, but millions are alive today thanks to their efforts, and this moving record will ensure that their legacy does not die with them.”
“This is a masterpiece of intimate storytelling with moral purpose, a contemplation not only of an epidemic of illness but also of an epidemic of resilience. It’s a book about courage and kindness and anger and joy, written with fierce, passionate intensity and utter conviction.”
“Important and powerfully written… Instead of diluting the emotional force of his narrative, France’s personal perspective on the story amplifies it, particularly because his meticulously chronicled version of events is never clouded by sentimentality or petty score-settling… ‘How to Survive a Plague’ stands on its own as a more richly nuanced telling of a chain of events that forever changed medicine… Inspiring, uplifting and necessary reading.”