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This brief story is a future chronicle that looks back at the previous few decades. After the first Martian samples were sent back to the Earth, one plague after another decimated the population. HIV was nothing compared to these afflictions, which ruined lives and devastated society. By the end of the narrative, the last epidemic had been placed under control, sort of, and it was hoped that 15 percent of the surviving women could still bear children.

The story was in English and I think I read it sometime in the 90s or later. Clearly, it could not have been written before the nature of HIV become evident. I don't remember whether I read it in a magazine or in an anthology, though an anthology is more likely.

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I believe this is "The Giving Plague" by David Brin. I read it in his collection Otherness.

The story is told from the viewpoint of a doctor who is fighting a plague (TARP) that came to Earth from Mars. He contrasts TARP with another (endemic) virus called ALAS (for "Acquired Lifetime Altruism Syndrome"); ALAS works within the context of human biology, more like a symbiote, as compared to the completely alien TARP that destroys its hosts.

ALAS causes people to want to donate blood; that is its primary vector for spreading, and the only clinical evidence for it. The only way to fight TARP is by blood transfusion, so the Earth is approaching a state where everyone will have ALAS. The doctor does not have ALAS, and at the end of the story when he comes down with TARP me decides that he will let TARP kill him rather than give in to ALAS.

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  • TARP: Yes! That is the story. Thank you very much; I've been looking for this story for a long time. May 3, 2019 at 17:37
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    I like to think the ending is ambiguous enough to suggest that the MC may already have ALAS. Specifically he is willing to donate blood, although not receive it. Perhaps indicating that ALAS has expanded it's transmission capabilities.
    – Jontia
    Jun 25, 2019 at 8:31
  • @Jontia Yes, this is also the impression I had when reading the story. Of course it does not clearly say so, it is ambiguous, but I had the feeling that is what the author want the readers to guess;
    – Alfred
    Dec 25, 2019 at 10:41
  • "TARP" is also mentioned in Brin's "Kiln People" - so apparently that novel takes place in the same history as "The Giving Plague"
    – Andrew
    Feb 20, 2022 at 17:15

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