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.