How to Survive a Plague

The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS

Publisher: Signal
One of The New York Times "100 Notable Books of 2016"

KOBO "Best of the Year"

From the creator of the seminal documentary of the same name, an Oscar finalist, the definitive history of the successful battle to halt the AIDS epidemic, and the powerful, heroic stories of the gay activists who refused to die without a fight.



Shortly after David France arrived in New York in 1978, the newspaper articles announcing a new cancer specific to gay men seemed more a jab at his new community than a genuine warning. Just three years later, he was reporting on the first signs of what would become an epidemic.
     Intimately reported, suspenseful, devastating, and finally, inspiring, this is the story of the men and women who watched their friends and lovers fall, ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large. Confronted with shame and hatred, they chose to fight, starting protests, rallying a diverse community that had just begun to taste liberation in order to demand their right to live. We witness the founding of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), the rise of an underground drug market in opposition to the prohibitively expensive (and sometimes toxic) AZT, and the gradual movement toward a lifesaving medical breakthrough. Throughout, France's unparalleled access to this community immerses us in the lives of extraordinary characters, including the closeted Wall Street trader turned activist; the prominent NIH immunologist with a contentious but enduring relationship with ACT UP; the French high school dropout who finds purpose battling pharmaceutical giants in New York; and the South African physician who helped establish the first officially recognized buyers' club at the height of the epidemic.
     Expansive yet richly detailed, How to Survive a Plague is an insider's account of a pivotal moment in the history of civil rights.

PRAISE FOR

Advance Praise for How to Survive a Plague

• “David France is uniquely positioned to bear witness to the science and politics of the AIDS epidemic, its deeply personal impact, and the activists who refused to be silenced by it: courageous and brilliant, often selfless, willing to fight even as they struggle with death, but always fully human. From the story’s beginning, France was on the ground doing hard-hitting reporting on the plague while living its toll in the most intimate of ways. How to Survive a Plague is a definitive, long-awaited and essential account of the plague years—haunting and hopeful, devastating and uplifting. Incredibly important.” —Rebecca Skloot, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

• “How to Survive a Plague is epoch-making: the whole social and scientific history of AIDS, brilliantly told.  Informative and entertaining, suspenseful, moving, and personal.” —Edmund White, author of Our Young Man

• “As one generation grows up with the misconception that AIDS is nothing more than a manageable illness, another grows old with the fear that the epidemic’s early days will disappear into the fog of history. How to Survive a Plague is the book for both generations. France has pulled off the seemingly impossible here, invoking the terror and confusion of those dark times while simultaneously providing a clear-eyed timeline of the epidemic’s emergence and the disparate, often dissonant forces that emerged to fight it.” —Dale Peck, author of Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS

• “How to Survive a Plague is both a great and an important book, and we owe David France an enormous debt of gratitude for writing it. At once global and achingly intimate, his story provokes righteous rage, despair, the blackest of humor, heartbreak and, finally, blessedly, hard-won hope . . . for all of us. You will not soon forget these smart, courageous, dying young men. In fact, let's call them heroes, since they were.” —Richard Russo, author of Everybody’s Fool

• “Heroic and heartbreaking and magnificent history throughout, How to Survive a Plague is one of the great tales of our time: the story of incredibly brave and determined men and women who defied government, the pharmaceutical industry, vicious homophobia, and the death sentence of AIDS to overwhelm an awful scourge. These gay activists—refusing to die without a fight—were vital in staunching the epidemic. Their resistance and cunning—while so many of their bodies were weakening and failing—will remain as seminal to medical history and humanity as the efforts of Pasteur and Salk.” —Carl Bernstein