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Wise Before Their Time: People Living with AIDS and HIV talk about their lives Paperback – 16 Jul 1992
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Unlike most books describing people with AIDS and HIV, this one is compiled almost entirely from their own words. The idea was conceived in the course of planning the 5th International Conference of People with HIV and AIDS, which took place in London in September 1991, with about 550 participants from more than 50 countries. One of the book's editors, Dietmar Bolle, who died from AIDS in January 1992 after a seven-year fight, was the organizer of the conference. He invited applicants to send, with their registration forms, their personal stories for possible publication, and these accounts were supplemented with interviews.
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This is an important record of personal experiences. Sobering for sure and yet ultimately uplifting and very well put together. I am very glad I chose to read it.
I suppose I find some comfort in how much has changed in just my lifetime, a mere twenty years although to some it must feel like a millennia - HIV screenings have become commonplace with pre- and post-exposure drugs becoming far more readily available; the creation of needle exchange programmes in many countries around the world; and, more people than ever are engaged in an open and honest discussion about all aspects of the disease. Also, at least in my part of the world, living with HIV/AIDS is no longer seen as a negative on someone's character and it is no longer solely talked about in hushed voices behind closed doors, moving into classrooms, university campuses and many other social arenas.
And I think that we have every person involved in the creation of this book to thank for a small part of that being made possible.
Each one of the voices in Wise Before Their Time is powerful and sobering. They show the everyday realities of living with a disease that people, including doctors as their tales repeatedly show, knew virtually nothing about. They talk honestly and incredibly openly about all aspects of the experience of living with HIV/AIDS - from how they got their diagnosis, to confront their own mortality, to telling friends and family members, to their hopes for the future. Expanding on the latter, there is a definite sense of hope that is forges the undercurrent for the entirety of the interviews as, no matter how long the person had had the disease or what part of the world they lived in, they refused to give up, every single one of them. And that is surely, the true definition of inspiring.