Dominique Lapierre’s, Beyond Love, which is a history of the discovery of AIDS, reads like a spellbinding thriller and yet is a carefully researched and detailed account of the hard work of dedicated scientists, doctors and caregivers who contributed to the isolation and identification of the AIDS retrovirus. Lapierre places this scientific and humanitarian work in a very human context and makes it accessible to people who have no scientific background.
His book combines the stories of human beings from all walks of life and from different countries, people suffering from various ailments and people who become involved in their care and treatment He is interested in all human beings and personalises all the players in his story so that the reader does not simply encounter cold facts but is made aware of personal aspirations, concerns and interests.The struggle to discover the AIDS retrovirus becomes, therefore, a tense human drama with protagonists and antagonists in whose actions the reader cannot but become involved.
The book is divided into three parts.Part One describes the encounter with a baffling new and deadly condition.As doctors in America first become aware of it in the homosexual community, they believe it to be an affliction of gay people.That draws mixed reactions from scientists and doctors, some of whom dismiss it and relegate it to less stringent investigation.But many dedicated professionals alarmed at the increasing number of deaths, are determined to identify its cause.This new condition that destroys the human immune system is given a name – AcquiredImmunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS. Part Two deals with the attempt to identify and isolate the virus responsible for the condition.The rivalry between a small, dedicated group of scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the National Cancer Institute in the USA dominates this section of the book.And though the NCI tries to steal the Paris group’s thunder, the rivalry has the salutary effect of verifying the discoveries made by the French scientists, who have isolated the retrovirus that kills lymphocytes, the cells that protect the body from infection.Part Three takes the reader into the world of chemical laboratories where work on finding a cure begins; where chemical engineers begin to look for ways to counteract the work of the enzyme that enables the AIDS retrovirus to enter and destroy the immune system.Once they have a compound that will stop further destruction of T-4 lymphocytes, they are faced with the problem of testing it.Can they test it on human beings?Lapierre gives us an understanding of the whole process of medical and scientific research that is very reassuring; we are made aware of the tremendous commitment and care that goes into finding cures for epidemics. And we are filled with admiration for all those involved in keeping at bay disabling and fatal diseases, many of whom remain little known to the general public.They embody Mother Theresa’s words: “The fruit of silence is prayers, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love.And the fruit of love is service to others.” (p. 352)