Plague Years (Hardcover)

A Doctor’s Journey through the AIDS Crisis

By MD Slotten, Ross A.

University of Chicago Press, 9780226718767, 224pp.

Publication Date: July 15, 2020

List Price: 20.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In 1992, Dr. Ross A. Slotten signed more death certificates in Chicago—and, by inference, the state of Illinois—than anyone else. As a family physician, he was trained to care for patients from birth to death, but when he completed his residency in 1984, he had no idea that many of his future patients would be cut down in the prime of their lives. Among those patients were friends, colleagues, and lovers, shunned by most of the medical community because they were gay and HIV positive. Slotten wasn’t an infectious disease specialist, but because of his unique position as both a gay man and a young physician, he became an unlikely pioneer, swept up in one of the worst epidemics in modern history.

Plague Years is an unprecedented first-person account of that epidemic, spanning not just the city of Chicago but four continents as well. Slotten provides an intimate yet comprehensive view of the disease’s spread alongside heartfelt portraits of his patients and his own conflicted feelings as a medical professional, drawn from more than thirty years of personal notebooks. In telling the story of someone who was as much a potential patient as a doctor, Plague Years sheds light on the darkest hours in the history of the LGBT community in ways that no previous medical memoir has.

About the Author

Ross A. Slotten is a family practitioner specializing in the care of people with HIV/AIDS. He lives in Chicago with his husband and is the author of The Heretic in Darwin’s Court: The Life of Alfred Russel Wallace.

Praise For Plague Years: A Doctor’s Journey through the AIDS Crisis

Plague Years is a remarkable book. At once the story of a disease and a very personal and reflective memoir, 200-some pages written in a powerful narrative style at once artful and enlightening. . . .There are many truths in this stunning and important book. And there’s also hope.”

— Rick Kogan

 “[A] powerful, humane and stylish memoir.”

— Nature

“A plainspoken memoir of the AIDS onslaught by a doctor whose life and career have been spent fighting back at it, Plague Years is humane, harrowing, and—eventually, mercifully, guardedly—hopeful. It was not an easy thing for me to return to the Chicago of those early years of increasing anxiety and fear—who knows how many times Dr. Slotten and I may have unknowingly crossed paths?—but this is an important account, and well worth your time.”

— Benjamin Dreyer, New York Times best-selling author of Dreyer’s English

“An excellently written, eminently readable, and absolutely compelling account of the AIDS epidemic, told with passion from the inside. Slotten vividly brings to life the stories of individuals lost to history and memory, as well as the experience of being a doctor on the frontline of something he never expected to encounter.”

— John D’Emilio, author of Queer Legacies: Stories from Chicago’s LGBTQ Past

Plague Years could have been written only by a highly observant and deeply thoughtful firsthand witness, reporting the most intimate and honest moments between a physician and his patients. A moving memoir of a gay doctor’s life during the most horrific years of the AIDS epidemic as well as an insightful and detailed historical document.”

— Sean Strub, founder of POZ magazine and director of The Sero Project