The AIDS Generation

Ascencion Party Fire Island stage in 2013

book review.

The AIDS Generation by Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, is a powerful, moving and useful book. Not only does it chronicle the terrible years of the plague when a positive diagnosis was almost tantamount to a death sentence it also explores why that word “almost” must be included. A few survived that diagnosis and continue to survive. 

What factors of attitude and manner of life contributed to their survival? What strategies, whether self-destructive or life affirming, did those infected with the dreaded virus adopt? Were they conscious choices or reflections of the essential nature of the individuals? Why did a few live when so many died?

Dr. Halkitis is a Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Health and Director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies and Associate Dean at New York University, is among the leading researchers in the field of substance use and HIV/AIDS studies. He has produced a book that is not only a valuable historical record—one that is especially emotional for those of us who lived through those years—it is also a tool of significant usefulness for those in the HIV/AIDs field today. Now that the tidal wave of funerals has receded into the past, it is easy to ignore the fact that new diagnoses of HIV/AIDS continue to be made. Young people, especially disadvantaged youth, still have to confront the fact that they have acquired an infection that, if left untreated, will kill them and will do so in terrible ways. They must also confront the fact that the vaunted drug cocktails do not always work and do have side effects. This book offers lessons drawn from the experience of those who have gone down this hard road before—lessons about what might help and what did not. It should form a part of the professional library of everyone working in this field, as well as those whose interest in the history of this epidemic is ether personal or general.

The AIDS Generation , ISBN 9780199944972, Oxford University Press