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

by David France

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A wonderful history of the movement that empowered patients and laid the ground work for the transformation of the pharmaceutical industry, for better or worse. Frances reveals the history with a compelling style from his point view and reports the history of others to round out the story. However his book is hardly the "definitive history," but definitely one that captures the complexity of some of many personalities that guided the movement. The ending does feel like an indictment of early activists' goals as short sighted and unscientific. ( )
  MichaelC.Oliveira | Apr 30, 2017 |
David France's book, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS isn't a carefully balanced account of the work done to find ways to treat AIDS. It also isn't balanced geographically or emotionally. David France moved to New York city in the early eighties, looking for a place where he would find acceptance and be allowed to be himself. Instead, he entered the epicenter of a horrific epidemic at its beginning and remained through to its ending. So while How to Survive a Plague tries to be balanced and journalistic in its approach, the real human feelings, along with the chaos and frantic need to find any source of hope shines through this account of the New York gay community during the AIDS crisis.

Going through the crisis chronologically, the story is told with all of the physical and emotional turmoil intact. As people struggled, even to find out what was going on, what this new disease was, as the government and American society reacted with a callous disregard at best, and an unseemly schadenfreude at worst, the men at the center were frightened for both themselves and their loved ones. Out of that, rose groups willing to do what they could to find answers, to care for the afflicted and to find ways of compelling the NIH and pharmaceutical companies to get anything that might help to market. And these groups were often at loggerheads with each other, with one group fighting for one thing and another fighting with equal fervor for the opposite. France does a good job of reflecting those conflicts in his writing and his own experiences during this time are recounted along with those of the other members of New York's gay community.

I learned a huge amount from this book. And while it's length is daunting, and arguments could be made for tightening up the story, the way it was written, with each meeting of each group detailed, along with the inter-personal conflicts and resolutions carefully recounted, that very approach deepened my immersion in the subject. And while the focus stays fixed on the fight for a cure, and how that was achieved, what remains in my mind are the heart-breaking and utterly common stories that France includes like the one of one partner last seeing his longtime life companion at the doors of the emergency room, as hospitals routinely barred entry to the partners of people with AIDS. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Apr 23, 2017 |

History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind -- Edward Gibbon



Don't read it over the holidays. It's too grim -- Former ACT UP member when I said I was going to read the book over the holidays


And yeah, it is grim. In fact, it is more than a whole thesaurus-entry full of words synonymous with grim. Everyone dies, basically. Needlessly, both in hindsight and also in actual at-the-time fact. It's almost like bearing witness, reading this book. I lost track of who some of the people were, but that hardly mattered. This document exists now, but it's hard to say what to do with it. It won't bring anyone back. It isn't to offer absolution. Just witness. Like a writing down of an oral history.

France weaves his own story of a gay man in 1970s/80s/90s New York throughout. It's done deftly, unlike me writing this paragraph, his insertions. Obviously, he didn't die, as all the others around him did.

Then it ends. With protease inhibitors abruptly. It feels like being dragged through trials of Greek-mythic proportions and then stop. The lack of resolution stings, but not as much as all the senseless deaths.

How to Survive a Plague by David France went on sale November 29, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  reluctantm | Jan 11, 2017 |
A different angle taken by this author than that of And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts, another classic history of AIDS in America. France's book is almost 100% from the NYC perspective and emphasizes the critical role of ACT UP in getting Big Pharma and the CDC, NIH, and the Washington bureaucracy to finally MOVE on developing treatments for HIV. It makes goats of former heroes Doctors Gallo and Fauci, whose refusal to start research trials and lack of focus on opportunistic infections were a direct cause of many needless deaths. No PWA (People With Aids) were permitted to attended any government meetings until their demonstrations and "die-ins" finally shamed the various committees. Many big egos and only a few gallant and devoted heroes, most of whom did not survive long enough to benefit from their unstinting efforts to save lives. A solid reckoning of the almost unimaginable discrimination, fear, and hatred of gay men from 1970 - 2000. True fact: Bob Rafsky, one of the heroes of ACT UP, served as the spokesman for Donald Trump in his day job. ( )
  froxgirl | Dec 31, 2016 |
The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

Director:
David France

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2124803/?...
  Trinity_QRC | Oct 23, 2014 |
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Book description
The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

Director:
David France

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2124803/?...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307700631, Hardcover)

From the creator of and inspired by the seminal documentary of the same name--an Oscar nominee--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.

Intimately reported, this is the story of the men and women who, watching their friends and lovers fall, ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, chose to fight for 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. 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 05 Aug 2016 14:07:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"This is the story of the men and women who, watching their friends and lovers fall, ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, chose to fight for 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"--… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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