On 25 September 1984, Daniel Defert wrote a letter to his friends proposing that they create a non-profit organization to address an emerging disease: AIDS. “In face of a medical crisis and a moral crisis, which is also an identity crisis, I propose that we create a space for reflection, solidarity and transformation,” he wrote. A few weeks later, the association AIDES (which means “help” in French) was founded. Its objective was to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic through community outreach, awareness campaigns and political lobbying. It remains the largest HIV/AIDS-related organization in France.
Thirty years later, Defert, who is a sociologist and was Michel Foucault’s partner, recounts his time at AIDES in a new book entitled Une vie politique (A Political Life). This publication is significant not only because Defert played such a key role in the HIV/AIDS movement for decades and thus has a unique perspective on the epidemic, but also because, surprisingly, the author has written very little on the subject. In spite of his involvement with AIDES, his sociological research had nothing to do with HIV, dealing mostly with the study of travel writing.
Interviews with P. Artières and E. Favereau, with the collaboration of Joséphine Gross. Editions du Seuil, Paris, 2014