“This is a poignant and heart-touching memoir which gives the forty year global HIV pandemic a truly human face.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Living and Loving in the Age of AIDs is a very personal memoir by distinguished designer, Derek Frost which was published at a time when the world faced another global pandemic, Coronavirus (Covid-19). The book is a reminder of the pandemic that came before that, the HIV/AIDs epidemic of the 1980s/90s.
Frost’s memoir tells the story of his life with his partner/husband J, a businessman and the creator of The Embassy Club (London’s answer to New York’s Studio 54), as well as the iconic gay nightclub, Heaven. The pair met and fell in love more than 40 years ago and have experienced an amazing life together, not without its highs and lows. Luckily, this book has a happy(ish) ending and the couple remains together to this day.
The author writes from a quite privileged viewpoint and he makes it clear that he understands how many amazing experiences he and his partner have been part of during their time together. Readers will, however, eventually learn about all the work the couple has done to, in some way, pay back this privilege to those who need help.
The first section of the book showcases the interesting and exciting lives they had before the AIDs epidemic which despite the sadness which then came, is a continuing theme throughout the book with the pair truly living every moment like it might be their last. While Derek himself remains negative throughout the memoir, unfortunately, his husband J tests positive for HIV/AIDs.
The next section of the book is created using diary entries and memories which track their years during the horrific pandemic, from the drugs and health issues to the friends they lost along the way, they somehow never completely lost hope that help was on its way.
The memoirs third section then shows the reader Derek’s own emotional and mental journey as he strived to support J as best he could.
The fourth and final part of the book comes after ARVs are readily available in the UK for free. This is the part of the book where you see Derek and J paying back their privilege and the immense luck they had in keeping J alive. Derek writes about their work in setting up AIDsArk, a charity that helped provide those life-saving drugs in countries where they are not readily available, thus saving the lives of other HIV/AIDs patients.
Derek Frost’s memoir explains the history of the AIDs epidemic for those who are not aware or not fully aware of what was happening and what milestones were hit. He also briefly explores other issues and rights that the LGBTQIA+ community were campaigning for such as equal marriage rights. The memoir is understandably sad and emotional due to the loss that happened during this period, however, Frost writes in such a way that also highlights the hope and queer joy that was still in their lives as they continued to live and love in the time of AIDs. A great read for anyone who wants to read about one couple’s journey through the unknown of the pandemic or those who have recently watched Russell T. Davies’ It’s a Sin and which to learn more about the HIV/AIDs epidemic.
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 7th April 2021