If you love literature and are looking to know a little more about HIV/AIDS that’s not just medical information, but also real stories which narrate the impacts the virus has had in people’s lives and society in the most intimate way, we have some books to recommend.

Why me? – Valeria Piassa Polizzi

This book narrates the story of Valeria, a young Brazilian girl who got the virus in her first sexual relation at fifteen years of age. Now, at 23 and from her room, she tells us how her world came down when finding out that she lives with the virus. 

The first edition was published in 1997 and it becomes a rough and thorough confession of someone who lives with this condition, the closeness to death and the surprise of finding people who stay by her side. “More difficult than having the virus was to pretend not to have it”, she confesses among the pages. Since the concern of not causing her parents any anguish, turns her first years with HIV, into a lonely path. 

The book is an emotional roller coaster. Through an intermittent dialogue with the reader, it seems to hold us close to tell us to hold back the tears or laughter and keep her company in her story in which she tells us how HIV is something more than being destined to die. 

The eyes of the Siberian dog – Antonio Santa Ana

This short story, published for the first time in 1998 by the Argentinian writer, shows us the crudeness of living with HIV, it also talks about the difficulty for those who accompany and how life is torn away from whoever stays and has wo carry on after the loss. 

The story is based on a young man who lives in San Isidro and who is about to travel to the United States. Before he’s done packing his bags, he narrates how he had to face the tense family environment he lived since he was 5 years old, when Ezequiel, his older brother, leaves home. His parents never wanted to talk about the matter, until they find out that his brother has aids. In what will be the final years of his life, while his family denies both the disease and Ezequiel; a deep bond is formed between both brothers, while Ezequiel alleviates his frustrations and depression in the care of Sacha, his Siberian breed dog. 

In this story, the author knocks down the paradigm of the loving mother with her children and an innocent childhood, which is built with fury, anguish and also empathy, characteristics used to carry out a critic towards adult-centrism.

Like a Love Story – Abdi Nazemian

Like a love story, places us in the climax of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80’s, three teenagers face love and friendship in this historical fiction novel.

The plot is based on three boys, the first is Reza, a Persian young man who lives in New York city with his mother and new stepfather. Although he is attracted to men, he has a paralyzing fear of AIDS. Judy, who loves fashion is Art’s best friend, both are harassed by homophobic bullies. United in their love by Judy’s uncle, Stephen, who is gay and has AIDS, they get involved in the defense of the rights for those who live with the virus. When they meet Reza, he joins their cause and a peculiar relationship among the three of them begins. 

The book describes the socio-political climate of the age with vivid details, capturing the dichotomy between fear and acceptance. The lack of clinical essays for women and people of color, safe sex and heteronormativity are highlighted in a non-didactic way along with the legacy of the gay community of the 80’s, the devastation of HIV/AIDS, the current joy and the continuous violence toward the queer community. And, despite an abrupt ending, it’s a truly charming romance to appreciate and read. 

We are Lost and Found – Helen Dunbar

This is a historical fiction which narrates the story of teenagers in New York city in the 80’s going through the HIV/AIDS crisis. 

At 16 years old, Michael keeps his sexuality a secret and he may just as well move and go drinking and dancing every night along with this friends to The Echo. But, in the shadow of the “gay plague”, he asks himself: “How do I live my life without becoming a statistic?” As people around him get sick, he fights to balance his desire for liberation and the consequences this may imply. The author minutely fills the narrative with references from the decade, particularly music, creating a vivid historical environment with occasional contemporary phrases. 

With characters that deviate towards archetypes, the text seems more historic than character driven. Nevertheless, the racially and religiously diverse case, the emphasis on safe sex practices and the careful maneuvers towards the tropes of the queer plot, offer a convincing portrait, similar to that of a teenage movie of the time. Lack of quotes in dialogues increases Michael’s strong first person voice. And the epilogue with reflections from three activists provide a historical context of real life. 

Where We Go From Here – Lucas Rocha

Originally in Portuguese, Where we go from here narrates the lives of three Brazilian queer teenagers who deal with the reality of living with HIV in this bold author’s debut. 

The clinic is full of impatient people, but for 18-year-old Ian Goncalves, the only thing on his mind is his positive HIV test. Then 18-year-old Victor Mendonca who is also in the clinic, shows up, waiting for his results after his partner revealed his own serological state. Fortunately, Victor tests negative, but he notices anguished Ian and he offers the opportunity to contact his partner, Henrique, 21, in search of support. 

The readers follow the younglings: Ian, fighting with his new life; Henrique, who’s had HIV for three years; and Victor, fearful of being in love with Henrique, while each one of their perspectives is described with profound kindness and clarity. This story is more like a series of open heart conversations than a plot based narrative. 

This literary debut seeks to knock down social stigma that surround HIV, offering scientific facts which assert life and tackle prejudiced thought. The cast of characters is solid. Sometimes explicitly educational, this treaty on community provides comfort in an often-homophobic world, with strong willed drag queens; drunken nights and ecstasy; and flourishing lovers. 

Remember that although these stories are inspired in real events, nothing substitutes professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about your condition or would like to know your status and get a free HIV test, contact us [Link] in some of our Wellness Centers or clinics near you.

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