Personal Stories

In the AIDS Library

The AIDS Library has a large collection of personal stories of folks living with HIV – and some not about HIV, but about related issues: coming out, addiction, incarceration, etc.  I’ve listed some highlights below.

After each listing, I made a demographic note about the author or subject, unless it was obvious from the title (and insofar as I could discern it – I’m not going to claim that I’ve read all these books myself).  I did this on the grounds that people are often interested in reading the stories of people with whom they identify personally.  This is of course not intended to pigeonhole any of the books below, or to assume that our clients have self-centered reading interests.  Rather it’s to help people get efficiently to the information they want.

*Indicates the book is new to the AIDS Library collection.

Autobiographies & Memoirs

  • Blood Brothers, by Nancy Shaw – a mother and her HIV+ child
  • Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, by Paul Monette – a gay male couple
  • City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960’s and ‘70s, by Edmund White – a gay man
  • Dancing in  Wheelchair: One Family Faces HIV/AIDS, by Fritz Mutti and Etta Mae Mutti
  • *Days of Grace: a Memoir, by Arthur Ashe – an autobiography of the famous tennis player
  • Eighty-Sixed, by David B. Feinberg – a gay man
  • In the Absence of Angels, by Elizabeth Glaser – a transfusion-infected mother and her perinatally exposed child
  • *I Have Something to Tell You: A Memoir, by Regan Hofmann – a straight woman (the editor of POZ magazine)
  • *I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey Through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom, and a Ministry in Christ, by Archbishop Carl Bean
  • Living and Dying in 4/4 Time, by Paul Gallotta – a gay man
  • My Unicorn Has Gone Away: Life Death, Grief and Living in the Years of AIDS, by Robert J.L. Publicover – a gay man
  • One Boy at War: My Life in the AIDS Underground, by Paul A. Sergios – a gay man
  • Penitent, with Roses: An HIV+ Mother Reflects, by Paula W. Peterson
  • Remember to Breathe, by Dawn Breadon – a straight African-American woman
  • Ryan White: My Own Story, by Ryan White – a transfusion-infected boy
  • Sing Me to Heaven: The Story of  Marriage, by Margaret Kim Peterson – a serodiscordant straight couple
  • To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before: An AIDS Diary, by J. W. Money – a straight man
  • Tweeds, by Clayton R. Graham – a gay man
  • You Get Past the Tears, by Patrcia and Hydeia Broadbent – an African-American mother and her HIV+ child

Biographies & Profiles

  • Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul: 101 Stories, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Tom Lagana
  • Common Heroes: Facing a Life Threatening Illness, by Eric Blau – a wide range of people, but each story separate
  • *Dangerous Intimacies: Ten African American Men With HIV, by Christopher Lance Coleman and Christopher A. Brooks
  • A Dance Against Time: The Brief, Brilliant Life of a Joffrey Dancer, by Diane Solway – a bisexual man
  • *Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway, by Trevor Shoonmaker – a biography of the famous musician
  • I Will Survive: The Story of 3 HIV-Infected Children, Their Families, and the Stigmatization They Faced, by Apichat Jariyavilas and others
  • *Mapplethorpe: A biography, by Patricia Morrisroe – a biography of the famous photographer
  • My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story of  Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, by Abraham Verghese – many PWAs from one Tennessee town
  • Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS, by Deborah Ellis
  • *Pedro & Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned, by Judd Winick – a profile of Pedro Zemora by one of his MTV Real World housemates
  • *SistahFaith: Real Stories of Pain, Truth, and Triumph, by Marilyn Griffith
  • Surviving AIDS, by Michael Callen – profiles of a range of people living with HIV/AIDS
  • They Conquered AIDS: True Life Adventurers, by Scott Gregory and Bianca Leonardo – profiles of many PWAs
  • *We Are All the Same: A Story of  a Boy’s Courage and a Mother’s Love, by Jim Wooten


  • Any Way the Wind Blows, by E. Lynn Harris – a straight African-American couple
  • Beyond the Wind, by Rob N. Hood – a gay youth
  • Bloodstream, by Joel Redon – a young straight PWA dealing with death
  • Blue Pills: a Positive Love Story, by Frederik Peters – a serodiscordant gay couple
  • *Christ Like, by Emanuel Xavier – a gay Latino man
  • Closing Distance, by Jim Oliver – a gay man
  • Facing It: A Novel of AIDS, by Paul Reed – a young gay man at the beginning of the epidemic
  • Half-Way Home, by Paul Monette – “two brothers, one gay, one straight, one facing AIDS, the other on the run from his life”
  • Love, Debra, by Fritz Hamilton – a child with an HIV+ parent
  • *No More Tomorrows: Two Lives, Two Stories, One Love, by Rodney Lofton – a gay couple
  • *Push, by Sapphire – an African-American teen girl (the inspiration for the movie Precious)
  • *Snow White: A Survival Story, by Anna J. – a straight African-American girl (in Southwest Philly!)
  • When Heroes Die, by Penny Raife Durant – a child and his HIV+ uncle


Many of our movies have personal stories weaved in to their larger narratives, but these are a few that seem like they might be particularly inspirational.

  • Amanda’s Story: What If You’re 15 and HIV-Positive – a short profile of an African-American Philadelphia teen
  • The Cure – the friendship between two boys, one perinatally infected with HIV
  • An Early Frost – a white gay man and his family
  • Homeless to Harvard – based on a true story of a child of HIV+ drug addicts who a scholarship to Harvard
  • Life Support – based on a true story of an African-American HIV+ woman
  • One + One – “Two couples of mixed HIV status choosing to love in spite of fear”
  • *Pedro – a biopic of gay HIV+ MTV Real World star Pedro Zemora
  • *Peter Allen: The Boy From Oz – a biopic of gay HIV+ songwriter Peter Allen
  • The Smith Family: One Family’s Uncommon Struggle to Keep Faith and Family – a Mormon family dealing with the HIV diagnoses of both father and mother
  • Three Needles –  “a portrait of people around the world facing the harsh realities of the AIDS crisis”

The Library also has a binder of Role Model Stories collected by PHMC.  These are 1-2 page personal narratives about topics like HIV/AIDS, addiction, condom negotiation, pregnancy, and more.  They are housed in a binder that sits on the back desk of the library.

Personal Stories on the Web

The has a series of webpages collecting Inspiring Stories of People Affected by HIV/AIDS from all over the web.  It’s sorted by population:

The also hosts has a page of personal stories about being diagnosed with HIV, Think Positive, and a Spanish version, Piensa Positivo.

The website The Positive Project is a great collection of shorter video clips of people infected and  affected by HIV.  It has multiple videos of 85 separate people (and counting).  Users can sort by population, but also by topics such as “finding out,” “medical care,” “disclosure,” and “social life.”  If you wanted, say, videos of HIV+ African-American women talking about parenting issues, you would find 23 clips from 9 separate women!

There are many other websites with personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS.  Here are links directly to stories from:

Tell Your Story

Over the summer of 2010, the AIDS Library offered a pilot program of a class that we’re planning to offer in 2011: Digital Storytelling.  Five people told a piece of their personal stories using words and pictures.  You can see the results at the AIDS Library YouTube page.  If folks would like to get on a list to be included in these classes, they should can contact the Library (215-985-4851) and fill out a registration form.  They’ll be contacted as soon as the class is available.

The following websites allow people to submit their story for publication.  Each organization has its own requirements, though, so folks should check these links to see what needs to be done to get published.

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