How to Survive a Plague wins The Baillie Gifford Prize 2017
David France has been named the winner of the £30,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction for How to Survive a Plague, published by Picador.
David France, a chronicler of AIDS from the earliest days, uses his unparalleled access to the activist community to illuminate the lives of dozens of extraordinary characters. He describes the founding of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (Treatment Action Group), the rise of an underground drug and the gripping – and often heartbreaking – march towards a lifesaving medical breakthrough.
In an interview given for the awards ceremony, David France comments:
“How to Survive a Plague is a witness account of the plague years of the AIDS epidemic, the years between 1981 and 1996 where there was no effective medical treatment for an HIV infection and death was almost certain.
“It chronicles the work that was done largely by patients and activists who schooled themselves in science and then confronted this kind of lackadaisical research establishment, to help by joining in as partners; identify, test and bring to market the medication that has made HIV largely a survivable and treatable condition.”
David France is the author of Our Fathers, a book about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, which Showtime adapted into a film. His documentary How to Survive a Plague was a 2012 Oscar nominee, won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award, and was nominated for two Emmys, among other accolades. David France’s latest film, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, premiered earlier this year to great acclaim.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of the Judges, comments:
“In our winner we were looking for something that is incredibly well written, enjoyable and also important. How to Survive a Plague is all of these things and also works on three levels: it’s the personal story of a gay man, the history of the prejudice that gay men faced during the AIDS epidemic and the worldwide scientific story of the search for a treatment for AIDS.”
The winner has been chosen by a panel chaired by author and Chairman of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette, together with Anjana Ahuja, science writer; Ian Bostridge, tenor and writer; Professor Sarah Churchwell, academic and writer and Razia Iqbal, journalist and broadcaster.
Sarah Whitley, Partner of Baillie Gifford and Chair of its Sponsorship Committee, adds:
"I am pleased to award the second Baillie Gifford Prize to a book that combines a very important piece of social history, unforgettable to those of us who were young adults in the early 1980s, describes collective action in the face of official intransigence and also outlines the ultimate achievement of controlling a modern plague.”