The best books about HIV

Many authors have picked their favorite books about HIV and why they recommend each book.

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Full Disclosure

By Camryn Garrett,

Book cover of Full Disclosure

This contemporary YA novel is honest, open-hearted, and rings true to the teenage experience. Simone is HIV positive, a reality that makes sexual relationships complicated and her presence at a new school potentially dangerous, thanks to a series of anonymous notes in her locker threatening to out her. In this debut novel, Camryn Garrett deftly navigates complex subjects while infusing Simone’s story with humor, hope, and all the excitement that accompanies first love.

Who am I?

I grew up in Texas where sex-ed curriculums ranged from spotty and misinformed to totally nonexistent. Therefore, as a teenager, I learned about sex from the novels I read—at that time, I was devouring Meg Cabot and John Green books—and I remember wishing for more tangible information. (This was before Urban Dictionary and Tumblr, unfortunately.) Fast forward a decade, and I’m the one writing YA novels. I no longer live in Texas, but my passion for crafting sex-positive, uplifting, and accessible books for teenagers remains central to my life as a writer and reader.

I wrote...

The Night When No One Had Sex

By Kalena Miller,

Book cover of The Night When No One Had Sex

What is my book about?

It's the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex’s grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe is trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale. Madison’s chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia’s fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet.

The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.

The Mourning Bird

By Mubanga Kalimamukwento,

Book cover of The Mourning Bird

The experience in this book of orphaned siblings living in the streets of Lusaka is harrowing. The children’s narration of their experience is told in a matter-of-fact way which makes it more poignant because they have accepted their fate. A recommended read for anyone who likes stories about the dark side of growing up and feels like a good cry. This is because although Chimuka the protagonist is fictional; they are thousands of real Chimuka’s growing up on the streets. 

Who am I?

My name is Ellen Banda-Aaku a writer from Zambia and the UK. I have been writing – mainly for young adults - for many years. My latest YA book The Elephant Girl which I have co-authored with James Patterson is due in July 2022. A memorable book for me is one that haunts me long after I turn the last page even though it’s fiction. Whilst the books mentioned here are very different, I have linked them in that they have child protagonists who go through a lot of suffering through no fault of their own. That is what makes them tearjerkers.

I wrote...


By Ellen Banda-Aaku,

Book cover of Patchwork

What is my book about?

Lusaka 1978. Pumpkin is 9 years old. Her fashionable mother is the queen of Tudu court, but beneath the veneer of respectability that her father's money provides lies a secret that threatens their whole world – the tall, elegant Totela Ponga is a drunk. And when pumpkin’s father – the wealthy businessman JS – discovers her mother’s alcoholism it sets in motion a chain of events that come to define the rest of her life. 

Weaving together the stories of three generations of women, this novel is a patchwork of love jealousy and human frailty set against a backdrop of war and political ambition. This book is about how childhood experiences influence who an adult becomes. Patchwork was shortlisted for the Commonwealth book prize in 2012. 


By Nora Kenworthy,

Book cover of Mistreated: The Political Consequences of the Fight Against AIDS in Lesotho

A big mistake in much radical analysis is to characterize problems in dualistic terms that externalize responsibility from Africa (Rodney, of course, is wide open to that critique). Thus, colonialism is not just irredeemably bad but simple to identify and directly related to white skin. The end of formal colonialism provided new targets in sometimes caricature form: black-skin-white-mask neocolonialism and neoliberalism, notably. Such things undoubtedly exist. However, Kenworthy’s brilliant, gob-smacking analysis of the unintended consequences of life-saving technologies reveals levels of complexity and complicity that belie easy dualisms. How does something that promises liberation from mass suffering and death (anti-retroviral drugs) become a machine to entrench corrupt elites and opportunistic NGOs, to sell cheap textiles in America, and to exploit poor women’s unremunerated care work? Read, weep, and lose your illusions about corporate social responsibility.

Who am I?

I first travelled to Zimbabwe in 1984, eager both to “build scientific socialism” but also to answer two big questions. How can people proclaim rage at certain injustices yet at the same time perpetuate them against certain other people? And, could I learn to be a better (more empathetic) man than my upbringing inclined me towards? Years of teaching in the rural areas, and then becoming a father taught me “yes” to the second question but for the first, I needed to continue to pursue that knowledge with colleagues, students, mentors, friends and family. Today, my big question is, how can we push together to get these monsters of capitalism, patriarchy, homophobia, racism, and ecocide off our backs?

I wrote...

Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa

By Marc Epprecht,

Book cover of Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa

What is my book about?

Challenging the stereotypes of African heterosexuality - from the precolonial era to the present. In the tapestry of global queer cultures, Africa has long been neglected or stereotyped. In Hungochani, Marc Epprecht seeks to change these limited views by tracing Southern Africa's history and traditions of homosexuality, modern gay and lesbian identities, and the vibrant gay rights movement that has emerged since the 1980s.

Epprecht explores the diverse ways African cultures traditionally explained same-sex sexuality and follows the emergence of new forms of gender identity and sexuality that evolved with the introduction of capitalism, colonial rule, and Christian education. Using oral testimony, memoirs, literature, criminal court records, and early government enquiries from the eighteenth century to the present, he traces the complex origins of homophobia. 

Join the Club

By Tina Rosenberg,

Book cover of Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World

Though we often think that positive change is inspired by charismatic leaders, NYT top gun journalist Tina Rosenberg takes us to a very different world, where real positive change is not driven by role models, but the peers. From iconic student-led revolution which has spread like wildfire from campuses to cities and villages in 90s Serbia, through removing the stigma from HIV positive people all the way to amazing process in which smoking has become “non cool” instead of “socially acceptable” this book explores the phenomena of “healing the community through peer pressure” especially among youngsters, and may serve as an amazing lighthouse to those seeking to mobilize-and get inspired by their own environment.

Who am I?

I'm super passionate about educating people on how to empower themselves and change the world. I do a lot of different things for a living. And my organization CANVAS works with the groups who are involved in the pro-democracy struggles and “art of the revolution.” Starting as a student activist in my homeland, ruled by ruthless dictator Slobodan Milosevic, I was blessed to meet and work with some of the most courageous people. Throughout the last 25 years, I've tried to capture, share, and transfer successful tools common people may use in order to address injustice, inequality, or small tangible problems through mobilizing their peers – and thus make their communities or the world a better place.

I wrote...

Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World

By Srdja Popovic, Matthew Miller,

Book cover of Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World

What is my book about?

“With this wonderful book, Srdja Popovic is inspiring ordinary people facing injustice and oppression to use this tool kit to challenge their oppressors and create something much better. When I was growing up, we dreamed that young people could bring down those who misused their power and create a more just and democratic society. For Srdja Popovic, living in Belgrade in 1998, this same dream was potentially a much more dangerous idea. But with an extraordinarily courageous group of students that formed Otpor!, Srdja used imagination, invention, cunning, and lots of humor to create a movement that not only succeeded in toppling the brutal dictator Slobodan Milošević but has become a blueprint for nonviolent revolution around the world. Srdja rocks!”—Peter Gabriel

When the Game Was Ours

By Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson, Jackie Macmullan

Book cover of When the Game Was Ours

This is the behind-the-scenes account of the most-watched NCAA Final in television history, and the epic Celtic-Laker clashes of the 1980s. MacMullan had ultimate access and knows the game. In this work, she captures the voices of Magic and Larry throughout giving the reader primary source history on a golden time in the NBA. 

Who am I?

I have been privileged to cover sports for the Boston Globe for the last 40-plus years. It is the best place in the country to do what I do. New England has tradition, smart readers, historic teams, and a great deal of success, especially in this century. As an author of 14 books, it's nice to bring some sports to the conversation on this site.

I wrote...

Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

By Dan Shaughnessy,

Book cover of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

What is my book about?

Today the NBA is a vast global franchise—a billion-dollar industry viewed by millions of fans in the United States and abroad. But it wasn’t always this successful. Before primetime ESPN coverage, lucrative branding deals like Air Jordans, and $40 million annual player salaries, there was the NBA of the 1970s and 1980s—when basketball was still an up-and-coming sport featuring old school beat reporters and players wore Converse All-Stars.

Shaughnessy takes us inside the legendary Larry Bird-led Celtics teams, capturing the camaraderie as they rose to dominate the NBA. Fans can witness the cockiness of Larry Bird; the ageless athleticism of Robert Parish; the shooting skills of Kevin McHale; the fierce, self-sacrificing play of Bill Walton; and the playful humor of players like Danny Ainge, Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, and M.L. Carr.

Bookshelves related to HIV