cover image How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS

How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS

David France. Knopf, $30 (640p) ISBN 978-0-307-70063-6

Journalist France (Our Fathers) illuminates the origins and progress of the fight against AIDS in this moving mix of memoir and reportage, a companion book to his eponymous Academy Award–nominated 2012 documentary. He covers a revolution in drug development that occurred as patients, for the first time, "joined in the search for their own salvation." France begins in 1981, when a buried New York Times story first identified a "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals," and continues through 1996, when a medical system transformed by activism delivered treatments that rendered AIDS a manageable illness. He juxtaposes his personal involvement with that of a group of self-proclaimed "HIVIPs," key ACT UP leaders from their Treatment + Data Committee whose collective mission was getting the medical establishment to put "drugs into bodies." Eventually, ACT UP became unwieldy and the group spun-off into the Treatment Action Group. France shares with passion and pathos the personal battles of these activists, offering both plaudits and opprobrium to an array of players who constituted the fabric of the community. As important as Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On was in 1987, France's work is a must-read for a new generation of empowered patients, informed medical practitioners, and challenged caregivers—lest history repeat itself. (Dec.)