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

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Staff Reviews

Queer history is inexorably linked to the AIDs epidemic in America. As someone who came of age in the aughts, I wasn't witness to the outright suffering the gay community faced and the heroic efforts of queer men and women to make our country care and react. Thank you to David France for making this breadth of knowledge available to us, so we do not forget how much work it takes to gain even the most basic levels of humanity in some eyes. 

In our current political upheaval, this beautifully told narrative history offers equal parts inspiration and forewarning. There is evil and injustice in our world and there are people doing more than there share to set things right. I hope it inspires other readers to do what they can, too, to help spread the burden of change around. 

-- Cody

— From Cody M. Staff Picks


A New York Times 2016 Notable Book

The definitive history of the successful battle to halt the AIDS epidemic--from the creator of, and inspired by, the seminal documentary How to Survive a Plague.

A riveting, powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, this small group of men and women chose to fight for their right to live by educating themselves and demanding to become full partners in the race for effective treatments. Around the globe, 16 million people are alive today thanks to their efforts.

Not since the publication of Randy Shilts's classic And the Band Played On has a book measured the AIDS plague in such brutally human, intimate, and soaring terms.

In dramatic fashion, we witness the founding of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), and the rise of an underground drug market in opposition to the prohibitively expensive (and sometimes toxic) AZT. We watch as these activists learn to become their own researchers, lobbyists, drug smugglers, and clinicians, establishing their own newspapers, research journals, and laboratories, and as they go on to force reform in the nation's disease-fighting agencies.

With his unparalleled access to this community David France illuminates the lives 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 recognized 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.

Expansive yet richly detailed, this is an insider's account of a pivotal moment in the history of American civil rights. Powerful, heart-wrenching, and finally exhilarating, How to Survive a Plague is destined to become an essential part of the literature of AIDS.

About the Author

DAVID FRANCE is the author of Our Fathers, a book about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, which Showtime adapted into a film. He coauthored The Confession with former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey. He is a contributing editor for New York and has written as well for The New York Times. His documentary film How to Survive a Plague was an Oscar finalist, won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award, and was nominated for two Emmys, among other accolades.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780307700636
ISBN-10: 0307700631
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publication Date: November 29th, 2016
Pages: 640
Language: English