LONDON — American author David France won Britain’s leading nonfiction literary award on Thursday with a book about the activists who fought the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s.

“How to Survive a Plague” was awarded the 30,000-pound ($40,000) Baillie Gifford Prize at a ceremony Thursday in London.

The book recounts how grassroots groups such as ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) pushed the government medical establishment to develop treatments for the deadly new disease.

France called it “a witness account of the plague years of the AIDS epidemic … where there was no effective medical treatment for an HIV infection and death was almost certain.”

The book is a follow-up to France’s Academy Award-nominated 2012 documentary of the same name.

France, who writes for New York magazine and other outlets, said it demonstrated how “people from this entirely marginalized community, marked for death, could actually make a difference.”

He dedicated his prize to “the 40 million people who died of AIDS, a disease that could have been contained.”

Formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize, the award recognizes nonfiction English-language books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.