o ABOUT THE VIRUS
o WHAT HAPPENS, WHEN SOMEONE HAS HIV ?
o THE SEARCH FOR AN HIV VACCINE
o JONATHAN DEMME - PHILADELPHIA
o JEANNE BLAKE - RISKY TIMES
o ADELE MINCHIN - THE BEAT GOES ON
o ALICE HOFFMANN - AT RISK
(acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) results from the late stage of infection
with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). In adults, the onset of AIDS can take
up to ten or more years, and new drug therapies can delay the progression of
the disease into AIDS even longer. Thus, a person infected with HIV may look
and feel healthy for many years, but he or she can still transmit the virus to
someone else, which is why it is very important for individuals to get tested.
global AIDS crisis affects 43 million people, but in the West people have
become complacent to the dangers. The AIDS epidemic has so far left 50 million
people infect with HIV worldwide, 16 million have already died. That leaves 34
million people who are living with the infection. Africa has been the worst
hit- 5.500 people die from AIDS-related illnesses there every day. There are
new fears, that Asia may eclipse Africa in severity of infection levels.
However, the steepest rise in infections in the world during 1998 was in the former
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. There are 1, 4 million children with Aids
say people who are too young to remember the massive AIDS-campaigns of the
1980s are becoming complacent about the risks of the disease. People are still
ignorant about the risks of becoming infected with HIV, one in ten people
wrongly believe there is a cure for AIDS and a further one in ten are not sure.
Only a third of people aged 15-24 say that knowledge of HIV has made them
change their lifestyle in some way - an 11% drop on the year before.
still no cure, the new and effective drugs have been responsible for fewer
people developing full-blown AIDS and increasing the numbers of HIV positive
present in infectious quantities in blood and blood products, semen and
possibly pre-cum, vaginal and cervical secretions and also breast milk. During
invasive surgical procedures healthcare workers may also come into contact with
the following bodily fluids, which contain significant amount of HIV: Amniotic
fluid, cerebrospinal fluid and synovial fluid around bone joints.
HIV us also
present in negligible quantities in tears and blister fluid, but is not present
in urine, vomit and sweat.
the fragile nature of the virus prevents it from surviving for a substantial
amount of time in the open air. The only studies on the survival of HIV outside
the body have been conducted in the laboratory under controlled scientific
conditions. These studies have found HIV is not affected by extreme cold, but
it is destroyed by temperatures of 60 degrees centigrade and above.
studies have found that HIV can sometimes survive in dried blood at room
temperature for up to six days. It is extremely difficult to assess exactly the
length of survival of HIV outside the body in a non-laboratory setting.
create itself under any circumstances. The virus has to be present in a
person's body and then passed on to someone else. HIV doesn't develop in a
person's body of its own accord like for example cancer.
HIV is a
transmissible infection, which is passed from one person to another. The only
way that a person can become infected with HIV is if bodily fluids of an
infected person get into the body of an uninfected person. The main ways in
which HIV transmissions takes place are through unprotected vaginal or anal
sexual intercourse, e.g. sex without a condom. Through blood to blood contract,
usually infection in this way is the result of sharing needles with an infected
person. Finally infection may take place from an infected mother to her child
either in the womb at birth, or through breast-feeding.
is possible to become infected through oral sex, the risk of becoming infected
in this way is much lower than the risk of infection through unprotected sexual
intercourse with a man or a woman. When giving oral sex to a man, a person
could become infected with HIV if infected semen got into any cuts, sores or
receding gums a person might have in their mouth. Giving oral sex to a woman is
also considered relatively low risky. Transmission could take place if infected
sexual fluids from a woman got into the mouth of her partner, the likeliness of
infection occurring might be increased if there is menstrual blood involved or
the woman is infected with another disease.
While research suggests that high concentrations of HIV can sometimes be
detected in pre-cum, it's difficult to judge whether HIV is present
insufficient quantities for infection to occur. To guard against the
possibility of an infection with HIV or any other sexual diseases it is best to
practice safer sex, with a condom.
kissing is a very low risk activity in terms of HIV transmission. HIV is only
present in saliva in very minute amounts, insufficient to cause infection with
HIV alone. There has been only one documented case of someone becoming infected
with HIV through kissing, a result of exposure to infected blood during
happens when someone has HIV?
who become infected with HIV don't notice that they have been infected. A few
weeks after infection, the body's immune system reacts to the virus by
producing antibodies. Some people with HIV have a short "seroconversation"
illness at the time these antibodies are created. The likely symptoms are the
normal response to many other infections, and may include a sore throat, a
fever or a rash.
living with HIV will have their CD4 count and viral load regularly monitored by
means of simple blood tests. The results of these tests vary in response to
infections, stress, exercise and the time of day, but it's of primary
importance in indicating how their health is holding up under the assault of
HIV. When someone has lived with HIV for a long time and their immune system
has been severely damaged, there is a risk of opportunistic infections.
Increasingly, it is possible to prevent or treat opportunistic infections,
which may arise in someone living with HIV using drugs. For example,
Pneumocistis carinii pneumonia (PCP) was a frequent cause of death in people
with AIDS or late stage infection in the early years of the epidemic. Doctors
are now able to prevent PCP with drugs, or to treat it quickly if it occurs.
Death from PCP is now rare among people with HIV in industrialised countries.
effective way to attack HIV is with a combination of anti-HIV drugs.
Combination therapy is a huge advance in the treatment of HIV, and many people
have done very well on it. Combination therapy is not a cure and, because of
complex rules governing how drugs need to be taken, various drug regimens can
be difficult to take or adhere to.
combination therapy has greatly reduced the number of people dying from HIV. As
a consequence of combination therapy, today in Europe five times fewer people
are dying of HIV infection than in 1995.
search for an HIV vaccine
the identification of the virus in 1983, some health officials were predicting
that a vaccine would be developed within a few years. Although it proved to be
much more difficult, scientists are confident that an HIV vaccine will be
In 1987 the
first human trial of a candidate HIV vaccine was conducted in the US. About 30
experimental vaccines have since been tested in about 60 trials.
most of the trials have been staged in industrialised countries, but now trials
are increasingly being done in developing countries also. During the 90s,
several vaccine initiatives were launched in developing countries, including
will not be a panacea, nor will it be an alternative to prevention. Because an
eventual vaccine is unlikely to be 100% effective, it will have to be used
alongside wide-ranging and effective prevention programmes. In fact, once a
vaccine is developed, awareness-raising and prevention efforts will need to be
redoubled in order to counter the risk of complacency. An HIV vaccine must
benefit all humanity. Once discovered, the vaccine will have to be made
available to everyone with minimum delay, in sufficient quantities and at
affordable prices. Early planning is needed to ensure that this is achieved.
peculiarities of the virus make the development of a vaccine an arduous and
expensive process. Still lacking, for instance, is the clear scientific
understanding required to guide the pharmaceutical development of specific
differs profoundly from most other infectious diseases. In the case of the
latter, the body develops and immune response to an infection in order to protect
itself and help it recover from disease. A successful vaccine against such
diseases therefore stimulates effective immune responses, leaving them
incapable of controlling infection or preventing disease.
existing vaccines are based on an entire microorganism (virus or bacterium)
that has been killed or rendered harmless. In the case of HIV, however, those
classical vaccine approaches are not considered sufficiently safe. Experimental
HIV vaccines therefore are based on parts of the virus (to ensure that
vaccination does not result in HIV infection). This makes the development of a
vaccine even more challenging.
subtypes of the HI-Virus have already been identified. Scientists do not yet
know whether a vaccine will have to be prepared for each subtype or whether a
more broadly protective vaccine will be possible. That, coupled with the fact
that the subtypes in developing countries differ from those prevalent in the
industrialised world, makes it essential that experimental vaccines be developed
simultaneously in the North and South.
know that the development of a vaccine is possible (because animals can be
protected against HIV infection), but they remain uncertain as to whether that
success can be extrapolated to humans. For that reason, the search for an HIV
vaccine has to include human trials, which are costly and time-consuming.
By Jonathan Demme
Was born on
February 22nd in New York. Jonathan Demme emerged from the halcyon days
of low-budget genre filmmaking--he began as a member of Roger Corman's stable
of writers in the 1970s--to become one of Hollywood's most critically admired
directors in the 80s and 90s. He learned the craft of directing making cheapie
action crime films like 'Caged Heat' (1974) and 'Crazy
Mama' (1975). Demme enhanced his reputation with a series of lyrical
sketches of rural Americana but is now best known for his fast-paced, hip,
urban style. 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991) finally brought him
huge commercial success, the strongest reviews of his career, and several major
awards, including a Best Director Oscar.
the main character of this drama about AIDS and homosexuality; at the very
beginning of the story he works for a big firm of solicitors called "Wyant,
Wheeler". Because of his intelligence, power of deduction, competence and love
of the law he's depicted as a promising young talent. He feels the desire to
fight against injustice, and he tries to reach this aim with all his might,
which sometimes goes too far - you could call him a kind of workaholic. This
character-trait has bad consequences for his physical condition, in the course
of the story his health gets worse and worse.
a big fan of classical music, especially of Bruckner, whose music he likes to
listen to when he's stressed or just has received bad news (for instance his
dismissal). He's quite a well-balanced person and the peacemaker in the
relationship to Miguel.
He's Andrew' lover and
of course he's gay, too. He works as a teacher of art, is creative and
interested in painting. He isn't as calm and peaceful as Andrew, on the
contrary he reacts in a very emotional way, and he allows his emotions to reign
freely. He's very concerned about Andrew's health, he's aware of the sad future
of his partner and tries to look after him as good as he can.
Like Andrew he's a
lawyer, too, but of course he isn't that successful and well-known as his
client although he is "quick on his feet". At the beginning of the story he's
like everybody else: He has an aversion of gays.
After his first contact
with Andrew (when he shakes his hand) he consults his doctor and inquires him
about AIDS. But in the course of the book he undergoes a profound change, he's
also influenced by his open-minded wife Lisa.
lives a kind of double-life: In his job he's successful, ambitious, happy and
popular. But in the evening, when he comes home, he has to face his biggest
problem: he is HIV positive.
book starts with the description of a trial about a building made of limestone;
with his well-founded and cogent arguments Andrew wins the trial against his
black opponent Joe Miller, who tries to convince the judge with his rather
emotional tactics. Of course Andrew wins the trial - but whereas Joe now can go
home to his wife Lisa, Andrew has to go to hospital and let Dr. Gillman look
after his bloodwork before he can return to his lover Miguel.
this point his state of health is quite stable, and so his boss, Charles
Wheeler, entrusts him with one of the biggest cases his firm has ever had,
ostensibly not knowing about Andrew's deadly illness.
concentrates upon this case, knowing that his future and his excellent
reputation depend on the outcome of it. Regardless of his health he throws
himself into this nerve-racking work which turns out to be the beginning of his
end. His psychical condition deteriorates constantly, after some weeks his
lesions become so big that he decides to stay at home in order to keep quiet
about his illness (and sexual orientation); he converts his apartment into his
office, some days later he collapses in the bathroom and has to be taken to
hospital. There a telephone call of his secretary lets his level of adrenalin
increase: a file about this important case is missing. Andrew moves heaven and
earth to find it and finally the desperate search is crowned with success.
Nevertheless Andrew gets sacked the next day under the pretext that he's nearly
ruined his firm.
Andrew's fight against discrimination, prejudice and personal affection and
aversion starts. He believes that the reason for his dismissal wasn't the
nearly lost complaint, but the fact that he's gay and infected with AIDS. It
turns out to be nearly impossible to find a lawyer who has the courage to sue
one of the biggest law-firms of the state; finally Joe Miller takes on this
difficult work, having discussed with his wife. Joe is critical of gays, too,
he has the same prejudices like everyone else, decisive for his decision is the
obvious discrimination against Andrew (e.g. the request of a member of the
staff of a library to read his book in an extra room). First Andrew talks to
his family to ensure the moral help of them. Then "Wyant, Wheeler" offer a
piddling sum of money to him in order to steer clear of a defamatory trial, but
Andrew refuses to withdraw his indictment.
the real courtroom-drama starts: Joe tries to point out that Andrew has been a
perfect lawyer, that he's been more than only a talent, that he's been
successful, that some partners did know about him having AIDS and that he had
only been fired because of his illness and sexual orientation - that the reason
for the lost file must have been a complot. The council of the defense, Mrs.
Conine, wants to persuade the jury that Andrew's just been mediocre, that he
has lost the complaint and that he's only been sacked because of his
denies that there's been a conspiracy, she tries to make the jury show
emotions, she wants to point out the differences between the "normal" average
chap from your neighborhood and "abnormal", disgusting "queers". Dozens of
witnesses are questioned, and the longer the trial goes on, the more "Wyant,
Wheeler" get caught up in a web of lies and contradictions. The critical stage
is when Mr. Kenton - a very homophobic lawyer - tells one episode about his
life at the Navy, the methods of punishing gays which is nothing short of a
the course of the trial Joe's attitude towards homosexuals changes for the
better - he gets open-minded and treats them like normal people -, whereas
Andrew's physical condition deteriorates, he finally breaks down in court.
the end Joe's strategy turns out to be the better one, he wins the trial and
tells Andrew the outcome of the trial on his deathbed - Andrew dies in the arms
of his lover.
- the name of the city where the story takes place - is a powerful plea for
equality of rights for hetero- and homosexuals, for healthy men and people who
are infected with AIDS. It isn't written in a very complicated way, you won't
succeed in finding lyrical expressions or stylistic devices - it's written for
the folk, it's written in a straight, direct way and wants to show the problems
everyone is confronted with.
you try to analyze the different characters of "Philadelphia", you can identify
with them; e.g. after shaking hands with Andrew, Joe consults a doctor to ask
him about AIDS. I think nowadays everyone knows about how to get infected with
this deadly illness, but nevertheless you'd hesitate to get in physical contact
with AIDS-infected persons.
Davis and Ron Nyswaner try to make us get rid of our prejudices and anxieties,
although it may seem to be normal to show negative emotions towards
homosexuals; many people think that it has to be - that it is disgusting, nasty
and simply ugly to kiss someone who has the same gender, but homosexuals could
also think that it has to be disgusting, nasty and ugly to kiss someone who
hasn't got the same gender, even if this is "normal".
from various character-traits Davis and Nyswaner also want to show the
polarization of the population, the differences within it and the resulting
problems. They want to point out that there are two extremely different
opinions and want to tune us to more tolerance.
think it was a good idea to read a book like "Philadelphia", not only because
it urges us to show more morality. It isn't written in a very difficult way,
you understand all actions and even the (deeper?) meaning without thinking for
hours. It's fluently written, and it was no problem for me to read dozens of
pages in one go.
in all I'd say that Davis and Nyswaner wrote an interesting, heart-warming and
deeply moving story about a serious theme, although some scenes strike me as
By Jeanne Blake
is a guide for teenagers, with a lot of short stories about HIV-infected
persons, their history of becoming infected and their way to handle with this
stories are mostly very tragic: a woman who never had any relations with
drug-addicted persons or homosexual men fell in love with a cute man, who seems
to be as healthy as everyone. Years after this relation, the woman already had
success in her job and a loving family, she found out that she is infected with
HIV, and that her children are infected too.
successful artist, who is homosexual but has always used a condom for sexual
intercourse, gets infected just because a condom tore.
who always made the greatest efforts in her job, because her main goal was to
help as many people as possible, got infected when she tried to treat a
who had the usual problems in his youth, but also couldn't resist the
temptation of drugs, got addicted to cocaine first, and to heroin afterwards.
He didn't think that the consequence of sharing a needle with other persons
could be so terrible. He got infected at 19 years, two years later he was
stories are very tragic, and they seem very unfair. But is it more fair, when a
homeless drug-addict gets infected, who doesn't have a family or a home, but is
judged to die? It doesn't matter if you are
shows, that every one of us is very endangered to become HIV infected, and its
main topic is how to prevent getting Aids. The best way of prevention is still
using condoms, but not even this is absolutely safe, as the story of the
homosexual artist shows. It is very important, that every human being is
familiar with this disease in its entire details, so people might think twice
before they have sex with another man or another woman, they might be more
careful and will have more respect to infected persons.
Blake's wants every juvenile and every adult, who doesn't know everything about
Aids, to read her book. Prevention, as best as it could be, can only be reached
through information, safer sex and understanding.
contains every single detail about Aids, the risks of getting infected, drugs
and their relation with Aids, stories about infected persons and it answers a
lot of questions.
author's goal was to create an alternative kind of protection, which is to
clear up at best everyone. With tragic stories and useful tips, but also
explanation of everything which is important to know, I think she reached her
I can only
recommend this book to everyone, because the author did her job very well, and
managed to write a high-quality Aids-guide. It shows the deep frustration of
infected persons, and also how easy it is to become infected. The short stories
are very tragic and make the reader very concerned about this topic.
Kids, who are not familiar with the great risk of getting Aids, will understand
the whole topic after reading this book.
The Beat Goes on
By Adele Minchin
Minchin is 28 and has worked in PR for four years, first at Campaign against
the Arms Trade and then in publishing. She also volunteers at Body and Soul,
the self-help organisation supporting adults and young people living with and
affected by HIV/AIDS. She lives in London. The Beat Goes On is her debut novel.
She is 15
years old, and lives in a small town near Manchester. Her mother makes her life
hard, when she sometimes acts like if she was the queen or just not
understanding her greatest hobby, which are playing the drums. Leyla is a girl
with courage, ambition and sensitivity. Emma is her cousin and "soul mate", the
two girls are unseperatable.
Jean is Leylas aunt, but is much more relaxed and seems very happy, so is Emma
a happy and outgoing person too. She is beautiful and intelligent, sensible and
funny. She broke up school to work as a mechanic, but after a little time she
gave that up, too. So she went to school again, and everything was ok again.
That freedom was over when she found out that she's HIV positive, what changed
her and Aunty Jean's life dramatically.
He is not
the typical 18-year-old guy he seems to be, he has succes in whatever he does,
so as skateboarding, DJ-ing and school. Leyla is the first girl he really
loves, his patience and tenderness make Leyla's heart obey him. Although he is
not involved with the problem, he knows there's something wrong, and without
asking and being curious, he tries to do his best to support Leyla with her
Leyla is a
15-year-old girl, and because of her boring life, in which everything seems to
be the same everyday, she wants a positive drama to happen, with her involved.
One day, she has her drama, but not one with a happy end. Her cousin and best
friend, Emma, wakes her up to tell her that doctor's found out that she is
infected with HIV. She also tells her how that mistake has happened, it was
just as usual: She was on a school-trip, and got drunk like all her friends
too. Then she met a nice boy, and the rest should be clear. She never dared to
think he was HIV positive.
It is a
terrible shock for both of them, but Leyla promises not to tell a third person,
but also that she would support her cousin in every possible way.
girls try to handle this situation as best as they could, Leyla gets more and
more informed about Emma's disease and they try to have as much fun as
They join a
great gig by a high-school-band, which they both enjoy very much. Leyla meets a
young and attractive guy, called Darren. She and Sarah, her best friend from
school, have a very secret place and the next day Darren appears.
them to another, even greater gig the next weekend and Leyla finds out that
Darren feels attracted to her either. So the three girls go to the gig, first
disappointed that there is no alcohol for teenagers, but also satisfied with
the good music, Darren plays as a DJ.
a self-help-centre, and a group from kids at her age, who suffer the same as
she does - HIV. It helps her a lot, to talk to these people, with the same
fears and hopes as she has.
One day, Emma wants Lelya to join this group too - as a drummer-teacher, but
Leyla feels that her own prejudices are becoming apparent, she tells Emma she
would feel like the odd one out, what makes Emma feel very disappointed and
hurt. After thinking about this conversation, Leyla finally agrees and
everything is alright again.
Darren's relationship gets more and more intensive, they start kissing and both
agree to be a pair right now.
One day at
Emma's house, Emma falls from a really good and positive mood into a deep
depression, she's aggressive against everything and doesn't understand why HIV
is a "dirt disease", not as cancer is a normal one. People with these diseases
are treat differently. After a terrible break-down, she gets normal again,
slowly. Emma's mum Jean and Leyla hug her and so she calms down.
time Emma joins the people of the centre, she is very nervous and feels
helpless, but as Emma told her, everyone in there is very happy to see the
person who makes the music group possible, and soon Leyla feels very
comfortable. She likes the relaxed atmosphere there, which does her something
good because at home she is much stressed by her family. On the other hand,
Emma, who is always very extroverted and outgoing, gets as shy as if it is her
first date, when she meets the group.
very happy for Leyla's bond with Darren, but it makes her sad too. She
recognizes that the chance for her to experience the same as Leyla is very
small. Emma's mood changes by minutes, from happy to sad, from sad to
performance as a band is very successful for Leyla, she feels very proud and
she likes working with these people, although it's not always easy. Leyla is
very shocked and surprised, when she's looking for the restrooms and suddenly
Darren appears who is much happier about that meeting than Leyla. He is also in
a band, which practices in the same complex as Leyla's group. She still tries
everything to keep her secret as such, although it is very hard for her.
Sarah and Leyla go to a party Darren invited them to. Darren is as gentle as usual,
and when they locked themselves in the bathroom he asks her if she'd like to
have sex with him. She agrees, but insists in using a condom, which they don't
find. So Darren is sad first, but soon everything is ok again.
day in sports at Leyla's school, she trips and cuts her knee. Before her
teacher can help her, the greatest bully of the school, Claire Higgins shouts
out loudly that Leyla has AIDS and everyone should avoid contact with her,
because she's bleeding. Immediately Leyla slaps her hard in the face, which
results in an audience at the headmaster's office. It was Darren, who has told
other people about meeting Leyla and her HIV-positive friends, and Claire soon
heard about it too.
Leyla explains everything to the headmaster, who immediately calls her parents.
They are very angry, narrow-minded and intolerant, so they forbid Leyla to
continue her volunteer work with the group. That forces Aunty Jean, Emma's mum,
to talk to Leyla's parents. She explains everything, and as expected both of
them are really shocked. From then, they didn't talk a word about this issue,
allowing Leyla to continue her Saturday meetings with the group, but also
avoiding to get involved in any way.
self-help-centre falls into great financial problems, so Leyla has the idea to
produce a CD to get some new sponsors. First there are big problems, but Darren
makes it possible. He finds a producer who offers them his recording studios
and the production totally free.
Aunty Jean decides to take Emma to London, because there's much more help for
her daughter. Soon after their arrival, Emma gets sick and is already strapped
in a hospital bed. HIV has developed into AIDS, and she suffers a serious
stomach disease. Leyla wants to visit her immediately, but her mum disagrees.
Nevertheless, Leyla leaves her home with tears in her eyes, but while she waits
for the bus her mother takes her with the car.
like they'd never did before, and then Leyla falls asleep, just to be woken up
by her own song, played by the local radio. She feels Emma close to her, and
thinks about her former wish of a good drama in her life. After all experiences
she has experienced, she now wants to have a good life in her drama, for her
and all people she loves.
shows how hard it is to live with HIV in today's community. Not only because of
the prejudices, and there are a lot. People, who only know that there is a
disease called AIDS but nothing else, tend to believe and act in crucial ways.
how hard it must be for a relative, or a friend, to live with HIV indirectly.
You can get easily involved, and although chances for good and educated people
from Europe are not as big as from third world humans, everyone is much more at
risk than we would believe.
is very social-critical. As soon as Leyla's performing with the group gets
public, she is HIV infected. Leyla's parents, who really believe HIV can be
transmitted by touching an infected person, are not alone with their
tragedy, which happens at the end, doesn't seem to be just another good drama
which makes romantic women cry. The whole story is reality, and happens every
wanted to show problems of infected people, but also the problems this disease
takes with it, how surrounded people are affected as well.
makes the reader believe that he is involved in the story. It shows how helpless
infected people are, but also that it's not senseless to continue living with
HIV. It is very tragic and ironic, but you will barely laugh while reading. The
story is written in the view of Leyla, a 15-year-old girl, who feels not strong
enough to give enough help and support. While reading, I often thought about
how easy it is, to get infected. But soon afterwards, how hard it must be to
live with HIV, and how impossible it is, just to take a medicin like for
is told with honesty and intensity, reflected by reality.
By Alice Hoffmann
She is a
happy, eleven-year-old girl, who already has found her true vocation which is
becoming a professional gymnast. She loves school, and earns top-marks,
although she doesn't have to study as much as many other children at her age.
She loves her family and even when she knows how bad things seem, she is not
really afraid of death. The thing she is concerned most about is missing school
during her last few weeks, and only when she couldn't really breathe anymore,
she gave up the dream of the gymnast finals.
He is an
astronomer and scientist, who always seem to have a possible solution for
everything. That's the reason why he suffers most of all, he has always
protected his family in every way, but when they found out Amanda has AIDS not
even he could safe her. He is a strong but peaceful man, and even in the final
period of Amanda's fight he tries to find someone he can blame for this
Polly is a
professional photograph and she's very successful. It seems she loves her work
more than everything, but from when she found out Amanda's sick she didn't work
anymore. She fights against the prejudices and fears of others, but soon she
realizes this won't lead to anything but anger. She's desperate, and everything
seems so strange to her, as if it was only a nightmare.
he's just eight, he is very well informed about anything, including AIDS. Like
young brothers are, he teases Amanda and makes his parents worry when he brings
animals of every kind at home. He is very happy, but too intelligent to ignore
Amanda's problem. He feels neglected, but soon he handles with it and
understands, that now Amanda is the centre point in their family. He shows
greatness when he accepts this, and until his sister dies he placed his own
desires in the background, supporting his family as much as possible.
ordinary American family, living right next to Boston in a small city. They are
four, Polly the mother, Ivan the father, Amanda the eleven-year old daughter,
who has all signs of becoming a teenager, and Charlie, eight years old, who seems
only to be interested in dinosaurs, amphibien, and nature.
Amanda is a very succesfull girl, with certain goals she wants to reach. She is
a gymnast, and probably the best in her town, so she competes at any tournament
with success. She visits a kind of summer-school, because she has the ambitions
to be a very good student too.
after another successful competition, she breaks down and gets high fever.
Polly tells her it would be better the next morning, but not this time.
fever holds on, she takes her daughter to the local doctor and friend, Ed
Reardon, who takes blood and stool samples for the laboratory. A few days
later, he has the terrible news for Ivan first: Amanda has AIDS, she was
infected when she had a surgery five years ago, and a transfusion with
contaminated blood had been given to her.
as expected, things start getting difficult. Amanda is too young for being able
to accept this drastical change of her life, she doesn't even know much about
AIDS. Her first question is how long she must stay away from school. Her
brother Charlie is much better informed about AIDS, he knows more than his
parents and his personality towards Amanda changes from the typical aggressive
between children to a very sensitive way.
Another problem appears, soon Amanda's disease gets public and so many parents
are concerned of their own child, sitting right next to an HIV positive child
in school. Even Polly's partner in work, Betsy Stafford, whose son Sevrin is
Charlie's best friend since they were three, avoids contact with the whole
family. She even forces Sevrin to change to a private school. All these things
are very difficult for Amanda's parents and also Charlie, who feels neglected
and no longer loved. The fact that Amanda seems not to care much about the
situation, because she is too young, makes it even worse for Polly, who feels
alone although her husband is as concerned as she is. Ivan starts calling a
help-hotline, found by a group of gays in Boston. But he does that without his
family's knowledge, but that's the way he feels as best as he can. To Polly, he
seems more and more to be a stranger, he doesn't trust the usual therapies and
searches for natural alternatives.
starts going to school, and her best friend, the coach's daughter Jessie
supports her in every way, but Amanda starts thinking about her disease and
death. Amanda gets weaker and weaker, so the coach has to do a difficult
decision. Because of the risk of the girl getting injured because of her
weakness, he tells her sadly that the following competition would be her last
one. Amanda cries and is desperate, because ever since gymnastics was
everything for her. She makes her routine, the best she ever had. And from
then, she knows she wouldn't ever be back on stage, just watching her mates
competing. She feels weak and tired. So Dr. Reardon examines her, finding out
she has a serious lung disease, which forces her to stay in hospital.
At the same
time, Ivan's friend Brian from the hotline gets sick and is about to die. So
he's going to see him in Boston, in an unbearable status. He is loosing his
only friend, the only person he could talk to in this situation.
a last wish, which is to get rid of her braces she has worn now over three
years. It is hard for Polly and Ivan to fulfil her wish, because their dentist
refuses to treat AIDS patients. This makes Ivan developing cruel intentions, he
wants to take a shotgun and visit the doctor. But he finds an alternative, he
calls Brian who immediately finds a solution, a different doctor who really
helps Amanda. After the procedure she looks in a mirror, unable to do anything
else than smiling. So she knows, she would have been beautiful.
status gets critical, her lungs are filled with fluid, and she suffers a
high-grade pneumocystis. Dr. Reardon insists in taking her to the hospital
again, but Amanda and her parents refuse. It will be her last few days, no
matter if she is at home or in the hospital. Amanda makes her testament, and
the few things she loves go to her parents, Charlie, her grand-parents and her
best friend Jessie.
has gone, Charlie takes her gym bag with his mother's camera and rides to the
secret pond, where he and Sevrin sometimes went to see turtles.
about not forgetting her, he'll always say if he's asked that he has one
sister, Amanda. He will even tell his kids everything about her, so she will
live forever in all their hearts.
of a young girl who has AIDS is tragic, but the way this novel is written makes
the reader feel with the girl, with her family. The author chose a story, which
surely happened many times in real-life. It shows the intolerance and the
fears, which even the young class-mates of Amanda have. The parents are helpless;
they just have to wait for her daughter's death to come and although they try
to make it as easy as possible for her, that seems not to be enough.
this story is not fun, and the heaviest thing is, that it seems so much real.
I've seen many tragic films or books, and although I think I'm tough and immune
against things worse as this story, reading this novel made me feel almost
depressive. It is one thing to be sentenced to death, but another thing is if
the person is only eleven years old, successful and hopefully to reach many
further goals. The deep sadness her family suffers, the problems they have with
the community seem to be expected, but not as tragic as this.
this is the best novel according to this topic I read, although sometimes
during reading I almost refused continuing, not because it was boring but too
touching. I recommend this novel to everyone, who is only a bit interested and
concerned in AIDS.