National Geographic Acquires David France’s How to Survive a Plague for Scott Rudin Productions

How to Survive a Plague to Be Produced as a Scripted Miniseries

WASHINGTON & PASADENA, Calif.--()--National Geographic today announced plans to adapt David France’s acclaimed book, “How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS,” into a scripted miniseries. Scott Rudin will executive produce.

Praised by critics as “a masterpiece of intimate storytelling” and “a sweeping social history, a bracing act of in-depth journalism, and a searingly honest memoir,” How to Survive a Plague is the gripping true story of a patient population that seized power over its own care and treatment to push through drugs that turned HIV from a fatal infection to a manageable disease.

The miniseries will chart 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. Ignored by public officials, religious leaders and the nation at large, these activists took on the political and medical establishment by becoming their own researchers, lobbyists, drug smugglers and clinicians, which forced reform and saved the future of an imperiled population.

“This medical thriller about the community that fought AIDS through its own form of grassroots advocacy and scientific research is the perfect fit for National Geographic,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO, National Geographic Global Networks. “With Scott and his team, we are honored to develop David France’s incredible book into a groundbreaking scripted series.”

France, who directed the award-winning documentary of the same name, will also executive produce the miniseries, which will premiere on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages. National Geographic and Scott Rudin Productions are also developing Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Annie Proulx’s Barkskins as an ongoing series.

Press notes on the book follow at the end of this release.

About David France:

David France is the author of “Our Fathers,” a book about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, which Showtime adapted into a film. He is a contributing editor for New York Magazine and has written as well for The New York Times. His documentary film “How to Survive a Plague” was nominated for an Academy Award, won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award, and was nominated for two Emmys, among other accolades.

About Scott Rudin:

Films include “Fences,” “Ex Machina,” “De Palma,” “Steve Jobs,” “Top Five,” “While We’re Young,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Captain Phillips,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Frances Ha,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Margaret,” “Moneyball,” “True Grit,” “The Social Network,” “Greenberg,” “It’s Complicated,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Julie & Julia,” “Doubt,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “The Darjeeling Limited,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Notes on a Scandal,” “The Queen,” “Closer,” “The Life Aquatic,” “Team America: World Police,” “The Village,” “School of Rock,” “The Hours,” “Iris,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Wonder Boys,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” “A Civil Action,” “The Truman Show,” “In & Out,” “The First Wives Club,” “Mother,” “Clueless,” “Nobody’s Fool,” “Addams Family Values,” “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” “The Firm,” “Sister Act” and “The Addams Family.” Theater includes “Passion,” “Seven Guitars,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “The Chairs,” “The Blue Room,” “Closer,” “Amy’s View,” “Copenhagen,” “The Goat,” “Medea,” “Caroline, or Change,” “The Normal Heart,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “Doubt,” “The History Boys,” “Faith Healer,” “Stuff Happens,” “The Year of Magical Thinking,” “Gypsy,” “God of Carnage,” “Fences,” “The Motherf**ker With the Hat,” “Jerusalem,” “Death of a Salesman,” “One Man, Two Guvnors,” “Betrayal,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “This Is Our Youth,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “A Delicate Balance,” “The Iceman Cometh,” “Between Riverside and Crazy,” “Fish in the Dark,” “The Audience,” “Skylight,” “The Flick,” “King Charles III,” “A View From the Bridge,” “The Humans,” “The Crucible,” “Blackbird,” “Shuffle Along,” “The Front Page” and “The Wolves.” Television includes “The Newsroom,” “Silicon Valley” and “The Night Of.”

About National Geographic Partners LLC:

National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between National Geographic and 21st Century Fox, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 128 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching over 730 million people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit or, or find us on Facebook,TwitterInstagramGoogle+,YouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.


Knopf, November 2016

Top 10/Best-of Lists – 2016

  • The New York Times
  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • The New Yorker
  • Paste
  • Newsweek
  • Library Journal
  • Bay Area Reporter
  • TIME Magazine
  • BuzzFeed
  • Flavorwire
  • Carl Bernstein’s Favorite Books of 2016
  • Entropy Magazine

Select Quotes
“Remarkable … I doubt any book on this subject will be able to match its access to the men and women who lived and died through the trauma and the personal testimony that, at times, feels so real to someone who witnessed it that I had to put this volume down and catch my breath … This is the first and best history of [activists’] courage.”
- Andrew Sullivan, The New York Times

“My favorite book of the year is easily David France’s How to Survive a Plague, a powerful history of the HIV/AIDS crisis … This book is heartbreaking, but it is also inspiring. We owe so much to those brave activists and to Mr. France for writing this vital book.”
- Anderson Cooper

“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

“Threaded with poignant personal recollection, [France’s] history is formidable in scope and profoundly humane. It’s also a study in the power of protest and civil disobedience, bound to be useful in the days ahead.”
- Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker

“France delivers a monumental punch in the gut; his book is as moving and involving as a Russian novel, with the added gravitas of shared memory from the not-distant past. It is both an intimate, searing memoir and a vivid, detailed history of ACT UP.”
- Rick Whitaker, The Washington Post

“Riveting and comprehensive ... Simultaneously intimate and sweeping ... France has done no less than preserve the complicated legacy of a time, a place and a group of marginalized individuals who found themselves forced to fight ... ‘How to Survive a Plague’ stands as a remarkably written and highly relevant record of what angry, invested citizens can come together to achieve, and a moving and instructive testament to one community’s refusal — in the face of ignorance, hatred and death — to be silenced or to give up.”
- Chicago Tribune

“Nuanced … Substantial and elegantly written, [‘How to Survive a Plague’] is at once a deeply reported (if New York-centric) AIDS history and an intimate memoir that makes clear the author’s stake in the story.”
- Boston Globe

“Extraordinary … A sweeping social history, a bracing act of in-depth journalism, and a searingly honest memoir all at once … A chronicle of the recent past that sheds light on the fights to come … A testament to the bravery, sacrifice, smarts, and humor necessary to win a seemingly unwinnable battle … The chaotic, contentious, painful form of hope offered in this book is vital even as the fight it chronicles remains unfinished.”
- Slate

“A truly American story … [France] turns the AIDS epidemic into a thriller, one whose heroes are mostly tragic. A powerful reminder of what happens when ideology is put before humanity.”
- Newsweek

“David France managed to simultaneously break my heart and rekindle my anger in just the first few pages of his breathtakingly important new book … Riveting.”
- Steven Petrow, The Washington Post

“Remarkable … the definitive book on AIDS activism, a long-overdue update on Randy Shilts’ 1987 ‘And the Band Played On’ … It’s not easy to balance solid journalism with intimate understanding of a subject, and even harder to write eloquently about a disease that’s killing your friends and loved ones. France pulls it off.”
- San Francisco Chronicle

“An authoritative account of a bleak time in human history, the book spans both abject horror and radiant hope — regularly moving you to tears … When science and society come together, France’s history transforms from gutting tragedy to human triumph. And with each false breakthrough, life shattered, and new day, ‘How to Survive a Plague’ lives up to its name, providing a blueprint for our continued existence.”
- Paste

“Painfully vivid history ... Through it all, France captures the immense fortitude of those who continued to fight AIDS when it seemed unbeatable and while they were mourning the many lives lost around them.”
- The National Book Review

“Flawless. Masterfully written, impeccably researched, and full of feeling for the living and dead heroes of the AIDS movement … There can be no clearer picture of the uphill battle against ignorance and bigotry … No better person to write this book, which had to be written, creating a complete and correct record of this terrible story and its heroes.”
- Newsday

“Prepare to have your heart buoyed and broken in this riveting account … In unflinching, brutally honest detail, France traces the lives of the people behind the constellations of aid and advocacy movements and presents their struggles in a way that will have readers stirred by each diagnosis, cheering the efforts to find a cure, and growing frustrated at the political establishments that ignored the terrible tragedy as it unfolded … This highly engaging account is a must-read for anyone interested in epidemiology, civil rights, gay rights, public health, and American history.”
- Library Journal

“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 Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

“David France brilliantly chronicles AIDS in America during the 1980s and 1990s … Powerful … American history, memoir, public health, and a call-to-action are perfectly and passionately blended here. Spectacular and soulful.”
- Booklist

“This is a masterpiece of intimate storytelling with moral purpose, a contemplation not so only of an epidemic of illness but also of an epidemic of resilience. It’s a book about courage and kindness and anger and joy, written with fierce, passionate intensity and utter conviction.”
- Andrew Solomon, author of “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity”

“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”

“[A] subtle and searing history of this late-20th century plague and those who survived it … [The] great advantage France has is that … he was an eyewitness to many of the key moments during the spread of the disease and … shared in activists’ pain and suffering.”
- The Observer

“‘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”

“Powerful ...This superbly written chronicle will stand as a towering work in its field, the best book on the pre-treatment years of the epidemic since Randy Shilts’s ‘And the Band Played On’ … Most of the people to whom it bears witness are not around to read it, but millions are alive today thanks to their efforts, and this moving record will ensure their legacy does not die with them.”
- The Sunday Times

“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”


National Geographic
Chris Albert, 202-912-6526


National Geographic
Chris Albert, 202-912-6526