Wise Before Their Time by Ann Richardson

“This book describes an unimaginable amount of ignorance, fear and pain. Men, women and children, small babies dying of a mysterious disease and no one knows what it is and no one has the cure for it.

     “A giant ‘Infection’ was written above her name. She was asked to use a separate toilet from the other women, which had a red ‘Control of infection’ notice on it. She was miserable, frightened and scared for her children.  I realised what was happening and complained. The attitude was ‘Oh, we know HIV isn’t contagious, but we must follow our old guidelines.’”― Ann Richardson, Wise Before Their Time

There are too few book like this. There’s a story of mother and her young daughter Daisy. She was just learning to speak. A little bit late in walking. Then when she is sixteen months old, she stops walking.

         “My doctor had to inform the funeral directors that she’d died of an infectious disease. So when they came, they came in these suits and gloved. They just wrapped her in a plastic bag and took her away. And, well, it just was too much for me. I couldn’t cope, I just had to run out of the room.” ― Ann Richardson, Wise Before Their Time”

A book full of incredibly brave people writing their heart-breaking stories on what it was like to live with HIV and AIDS. I warmly recommend this for everyone.

This book’s intrinsic historical and cultural value is invaluable…providing insights and historical accounts which would otherwise be lost to time. These historic interviews are not only rare but also remarkably candid for their era. At times, the stories were alarming. No matter your feelings and beliefs on this disease, you owe it to yourself to read this book!”


“Although the context in which Ann Richardson has reissued her book has changed considerably [since 1992], there is a freshness and an immediacy in many of the spoken and written interviews with people of both genders, of different ages and from different cultures. The stories are often moving, even tear-inducing, and also occasionally funny. Yes, HIV/AIDS before drug therapy was a terrible plague, which particularly hit Western gay men and heterosexual Africans and their children. But what comes over most strongly from many of the people who feature in this important book is their fortitude, in some cases their stoicism, and often intimations of real love.”


“I missed out on a majority the horrors of the pandemic, but as Ann Richardson states in the foreword, my generation and the ones that come after it, are the reason why this book needs to be republished – so that people do not forget the horrors and fears of the past and, in some places in the world, the present; that we remain educated and continue to stand in solidarity with people who are HIV-positive and those living with AIDS.”


“The voices in this book are powerful and sobering. They show the everyday realities of living with a disease that people, including doctors, knew virtually nothing about. They talk honestly and incredibly openly about all aspects of the experience of living with HIV/AIDS – from how they got their diagnosis, to confront their own mortality, to telling friends and family members, to their hopes for the future. Yet there is a definite sense of hope that, no matter how long the person had had the disease or what part of the world they lived in, they refused to give up, every single one of them. And that is surely, the true definition of inspiring.”


“It was a sad book, something I wouldn’t dare to re-read but glad that I have read it. I remember reading ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver and having the same feelings; as a parent, the book was so hard for me to read and yet, I was awfully glad I had read it. Wise Before Their Time is totally different in context from Lionel Shriver’s. It is a difficult book to read not as a parent but as a sensitive person.

Difficult times brings out either the strength or the weakness in a person. The person never stays same. He either becomes bigger or smaller. And it was heartening to learn that most patients after being tested positive came out stronger, wiser, and more mature.

The author, through interviews with patients, has presented an honest, moving picture which touches a reader’s heart. Do read this book. If not for anything else then just to understand and appreciate the beauty of being healthy and being alive!”


“Wise Before Their Time is an enlightening compilation of individual stories and thoughts from those infected with HIV in the early era of AIDS. It saddened me to see how fellow humans treated one another. I was particularly disturbed by the story about a baby dying from the disease. Though there are also messages of love and hope throughout, I feel the book is a good educational tool about the stigma of the virus when not much was understood about it. An important read.”


I believe it’s so important to remember the people behind their diagnosis. This book takes you there. Dietmar was so passionate to spread the word. It was a privilege to know & work with him.”


“Wise Before Their Time” is both moving and informative. You are saddened by most of the tales. But at the same time, you learn that for the most part, after their diagnosis and treatment, the AIDS afflicted are grateful. Of course they are sorry to have AIDS. But they have all learned to love life more than ever before. This book is not only touching, it’s well crafted and will shed new light on AIDS for readers everywhere.”