BEYOND LOVE is more than a factual account of the discovery of the retrovirus now known as HIV—human immunodeficiency virus. It’s the story of the men and women who pursued the elusive virus. These researchers had to contend not only with the disease itself but also with the widespread public hostility and misinformation as well as with fierce rivalries among their own ranks.
The first AIDS victim was treated at UCLA in 1980. In 1981, the Center for Disease Control reported that four others—all gay men who had inhaled toxic drugs—were dying of disorders related to ineffective immune systems. But because of the “distasteful” nature of the illness and the fear of introducing a mysterious killer into its labs, the scientific community did not respond. It wasn’t until 1982, when it became clear that blood products could transmit the unknown disease that researchers on both sides of the Atlantic began their search for HIV.
The race to identify the virus was a heated one—the National Cancer Institute’s Robert Gallo versus Luc Montagnier of France’s Pasteur Institute. The French effort appeared to be no match for Gallo’s massive ego and budget, and in 1984, the American press reported that Gallo had identified HIV. Lapierre, however (a Frenchman), presents strong documentation for the French as the true victors. The account of this rivalry is fascinating—the book’s strong point.
Throughout the book, Lapierre also details another aspect of AIDS—the story of those who unselfishly treat its victims, including Mother Teresa, who directed the first AIDS home in New York.
BEYOND LOVE is lengthy and wordy, but Lapierre does an effective job of examining the AIDS epidemic from two distinct viewpoints—the scientific and humanistic.