Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a day to learn more about HIV/AIDS, support people living with the virus, remember those who succumbed to it, and fight for further research for a vaccination and cure. Although people living with HIV/AIDS no longer face the kind of systematic ostracization that they did in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS outbreaks were at their highest, there is still a stigma associated with the virus and the people who live with it.
One way to fight ignorance and intolerance is through reading! Reading books that depict characters living with HIV/AIDS, their struggles, and their bravery, can help readers better understand the virus, how it affects those who are living with it, and how it affects their families and friends. Unfortunately, a preliminary search for young adult novels that feature characters with HIV/AIDS shows a few things:
- Young adult novels that feature characters living with HIV/AIDS are pretty rare.
- Young adult novels that feature characters living with HIV/AIDS are mostly in the “precautionary tale” vein, meaning the HIV-positive character is depicted as a pitiable subject who teaches the main character (and reader) about the dangers of sex and/or intravenous drug use.
- Young adult novels rarely feature characters living with HIV/AIDS in which the illness is normalized, meaning it is not the character’s defining characteristic.
That said, there are some YA novels that feature HIV-positive characters that are worth your time. Give these a try:
Blue Pills: a positive love story by Frederick Peeters
This beautiful graphic novel follows the love story of Fred and Cati, who is HIV-positive. In addition to learning how to navigate an emotional and sexual relationship while living with HIV, this novel also deals with every-day topics like raising a child, falling in love, and talking to mammoths. This graphic novel is just that – graphic; there are depictions of sex and adult language, so keep that in mind before you pick it up.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
In this novel by popular YA novelist David Levithan, former boyfriends Harry and Craig attempt to break a Guinness World record by kissing for 32 hours straight. This novel is narrated by “the shadow uncles,” a Greek-chorus-style amalgam of men who died of HIV/AIDS during the 1980s epidemic.
I wish I could recommend more than two books, but I can’t! I’ll keep looking for more YA novels in which HIV/AIDS is handled with empathy and respect. In the meantime, check out Two Boys Kissing and Blue Pills. If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the World AIDS Day website or visit the library for more information.