Books for World Aids Day

In the past, Aids was often represented in fiction as a death sentence. But with the introduction of new treatments and the success of prevention efforts, Aids is no longer an automatic death sentence. As a result, Aids has been largely absent from popular culture for decades.

person holding a frame with text on it which reads "World Aids Day"
Photo by Klaus Nielsen on

The media representation of HIV/Aids has been changing over time. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were many TV shows that would portray HIV/AIDS as a death sentence. However, with new treatments and prevention efforts coming out in recent years, AIDS is not always a death sentence anymore. This shift has left the media to portray AIDS in different ways than it did before.

Here are a selection of books for World Aids Day, to increase your understanding of HIV/Aids.

Let the Record Show

ACT UP were the most important activists of a generation, a movement that changed the course of the AIDS epidemic. The ACT UP story has been told largely from the perspective of white, cisgender gay men. Sarah Shulman’s new account – 20 years in the making – demonstrates that ACT UP’s success was the result of a much wider, and unlikely coalition of activists across gender identity, sexuality, race, age and socioeconomic backgrounds. An necessary corrective, Let the Record Show, is also a handbook for radical action.

When we rise

When We Rise is Jones’ account of his remarkable life. He chronicles the heartbreak of losing countless friends to AIDS, which very nearly killed him, too; his co-founding of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation during the terrifying early years of the epidemic; his conception of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest community art project in history; the bewitching story of 1970s San Francisco and the magnetic spell it cast for thousands of young gay people and other misfits; and the harrowing, sexy, and sometimes hilarious stories of Cleve’s passionate relationships with friends and lovers during an era defined by both unprecedented freedom and possibility, and prejudice and violence alike.

The Great Believers

If reading a sweeping history feels too daunting, you might want to pick up The Great Believers instead. In this beautiful novel, Rebecca Makkai tells a story about the AIDS crisis through the intimate stories of one group of friends. In 1985, Yale, a young man working for a Chicago art gallery, tries to keep his life together as he watches his friends die. In 2015, Fiona, the sister of one of Yale’s deceased friends, travels to Paris, searching for her missing daughter. Makai masterfully weaves these two stories together, exploring how pain of the AIDS crisis continues to reverberate today.

a person wearing red ribbon
Photo by Anna Shvets on

Support for HIV/Aids

Local and national charities and organisations can provide help and support for people living with, or worried about, HIV/Aids.

More books?

Know of any books that should be featured here? Let me know in the comments below!

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor and proofreader specialising in LGBTQ+ writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

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