Wise Before Their Time – Reviews

Readers’ Reviews from Amazon and Goodreads

A book that will make the problems in your own life look small

John Gaudet, November 2018, Amazon.com

I lived in Africa for 17 years and the last half of my time was spent in the field of aid and development where I came in contact with health workers who were dealing with the AIDS epidemic that was just starting. The world’s first known case of AIDS had been traced to a sample of blood plasma from a man who died in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1959. Derived from simian viruses the human form arrived in the States nine years later. And by 1992 in the US, AIDS became the leading cause of death for men 24-44 years old. By 1999 AIDS became the fourth biggest killer worldwide. When I came back to the States you couldn’t open a paper without seeing something about AIDS. In the past 20 years that has all changed. AIDS is off the front page – gone from the everyday. This is the result of the large global effort that was mounted and seemingly has paid off as world-wide the number of people newly infected with HIV has declined. In addition, the number of people with HIV receiving treatment especially in resource-poor countries has dramatically increased in the past decade.

What has changed over the past few years, as pointed out by another reviewer of Richardson’s book, is that AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence, “partly because of more widespread scientific knowledge but largely because those who can access antiretroviral drugs (dispensed free to infected men and women in many countries) can often live a normal life.”
Many of the people who appear in her book were infected in the late ‘80’s when a positive diagnosis meant the sudden end of your life. The advice given to these young people had to do with how to cope until the end arrived. This often brought on depression, panic, suicidal thoughts, a denigration of self and a loss of purpose. They soon realized that in order to survive a positive diagnosis, a positive attitude had to be developed quickly. The amazing thing about the book is how each person went about this. In almost every case they had to reach down inside themselves in order to tap into their emotional and psychological reserves, something that took courage and persistence.
This is the remarkable thing about the book, by using their own words taken from spoken and written interviews, an intimacy is created that is impossible to ignore. These people open up their hearts and souls and you can’t look away. What impressed myself and other readers is the fortitude shown.

One of the common themes that runs throughout the book is that, as the author says, it is relationships with others which generally sustain people. Another common theme is that people so affected become more aware of what’s happening around them, they begin to enjoy simple things in life like sitting in the middle of London watching the red buses go by, waking up and seeing the sunshine, looking at flowers, seasons changing. And as one person put it, “…thinking, God, I’ve made it –.”
The author reminds us that much that happened in her book refers to the past, but for people in developing countries the book is still as relevant today as it was then. What seems to have been forgotten by the popular press is that back in East and Southern Africa, the epidemic still rages on. The number of people living with HIV in this region continues to increase, even as huge strides are being made to provide access to antiretroviral treatment and to make the affected people aware that they are living with HIV. Almost 7% of the adult population are still HIV positive. Much of the deadliness of the epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa is caused by a vicious synergy between HIV and tuberculosis. The two diseases have been inextricably bound together since the beginning of the HIV epidemic. Gay men and heterosexual Africans and their children are still faced with many of the dilemmas voiced by the people in this book, in that respect nothing has changed.


Powerful Stuff

Greg Thompson, 29 October 2018, Goodreads

An evocative tribute to the experiences of people with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s; to their suffering and to their strength of spirit. A collection of historical value and a reminder of the cruelty inherent to ill-informed, fear-driven prejudice that is just as relevant today.

Read this book. Listen to the stories of the people who contributed to it. Feel their experiences. Find the opportunity to learn from their wisdom in the way you live your life and the ways in which you relate to others.

This book is so important
Amazon customer, 8 March 2018, Amazon.com

This book is so important. I have no words to explain how important this book actually is.

It’s not the first time I read a book that deals with AIDS and HIV, but it’s the first time I read a book where so many different experiences with them are shown. That’s one of the main things I take away from this book: diversity.

This book shines light on how AIDS and HIV do not target a certain group of people, that it can affect anyone. It is based on interviews done to people at a meeting for HIV-positive people. The good thing about that is that we get experiences from people from all over the world, so their experiences have to be different from each other’s. It’s been interesting to see how different cultures react to the same thing and deal with it.

There is something about the fragments that make them even more personal and real: the fact that the authors kept some mistakes that non-native English speakers would make. That showed to me that the texts were not altered to look a certain way, so everything that is written comes from specifically those people. This might be like a weird point to make but, personally, I think that it’s important to keep the essence of the people who are talking about something so personal. Furthermore, those mistakes do not lead to miscommunication, so they are not really that big.

The best part about this book is that every person that is interviewed has had a different experience. Therefore, we see how different people with different backgrounds (culture, education, sexuality, etc.) talk about how they live with knowing they are HIV-positive. Everything that is depicted here is very real: we see doubts, hope, carelessness, etc. We see a full scope of feelings and reactions. We also see that not everyone affected is a young adult, there are children and adults too.

To be honest, one of the most surprising (and amazing) things about this book is that it gives hope to people in that same situation. It validates people’s feelings from being suicidal to wanting to live life fully. Normalizing all those feelings is important to make people feel like what they feel is not wrong. All throughout the pages you can see that there is a message of hope, of resistance, but the thing is that that message is spread through different experiences and it’s not just about facing HIV straight away and not being scared.

I don’t really have the words to properly explain how important this is. I just hope more people read it and learn a bit more about the virus.

Excellent Book
Goran M, 9 My 2018. Amazon.co,

I saw the first version of the book many years ago. Unfortunately, despite many positive changes related to medical aspects stigma and discrimination are still part of everyday life for people living with HIV/AIDS. This book is excellent and very powerful, giving a lot of relevant information that anyone might need.

Must read, if you are interested in this topic.

A powerful read
Pamela Parr

I’m old enough to remember the fear, misinformation and some might say hysteria over the emergence of HIV and AIDS in the 80s, although I was too young to understand it at first. In this book dozens of people from all over the world speak about their experiences of being diagnosed with HIV in those early days – so this is an important document. In their own voices they talk about their fears for the future, their issues around telling their families and friends, their relationships, attitudes to sex and spirituality. It’s at times heartwarming, but always with an underlying sense of sadness. It’s not, of course, an easy read. I would have liked to have known how their stories ended – but the author, unfortunately, was not able to contact the speakers decades on. I also think the book would benefit from including more information about how attitudes and treatments have changed since it was originally written.


A historically and culturally invaluable book!
Ken Johnson, 8 January  2018. Amazon.com.

This book’s intrinsic historical and cultural value is invaluable. Essentially a revision of a previous edition, it provides insights and historical accounts which would otherwise be lost to time. Simply due to technological advances, we have changed much as a society… therefore we have also forgotten much. 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!

NOTE: A copy was provided to me in return for a fair and honest review.


PeaceLoveHope, 11 January 2018. Amazon.com

Wise Before Their Time is an enlightening compilation of individual stories and thoughts from those infected with HIV. Many/most of these accounts are from the early era of AIDS and 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.


Incredibly moving
Heidi Lynn, 10 March 2018. Amazon.com
Wise Before Their Time People With AIDS and HIV Talk about Their Lives by Ann Richardson a very compassionate look at the lives and daily struggles of people living with HIV and AIDS. A book that you will definitely need your tissues for. A book that will show you that living with HIV and AIDS is not an easy one and each individual is very courageous for going through this battle. You will get a better understanding of the personal and clinical side of this disease.

Throughout this book you will read stories of individuals whom have HIV and AIDS. Each story will touch your hearts in different ways. Many will tell you how they found out they got the disease, how they told their families, what life is like for them now, etc. You will learn that it is not just a gay disease and that even babies can get this. After reading these stories you will never look the same at this disease the same way again.

Words could not express how my heart ached Ann Richardson whom lost her dear friend and co-author of this book Dietmar Bolle to AIDS. It would have been 25 years since his passing. Dietmar had a heart of gold, a passion for helping people and making a difference in their lives. In all of his achievements he accomplished he truly changed these people’s lives for the better. He was truly an incredible man that I would have loved to have the honor to meet. Dietmar Bolle thank you for everything you did for the AIDS/HIV community. Mark from Canada mentioned something in this book that I loved “Many express a love of being alive and the need not to take things for granted.” “In the life, I am very much an observer. I like to be looking, the people, the things. I have a marvellous relationship with one of my nephews, I love him very much. And to see him growing each day, it is a marvellous for me.”
Heart-breaking tales told by sufferers in the early days of HIV?AIDS
MegaReader, 19 January 2018. Amazon.co.uk

‘Wise Before Their Time’ was first published in 1992 and focuses on the everyday lives of people suffering with HIV/AIDS. Victims talk about how they found out about their disease, their thoughts and feelings at the time of diagnosis, and the effect the HIV diagnosis had on their immediate families.

Reading it over 25 years later it’s plain to see how ignorant the public were at that time regarding not only HIV/AIDS, but also how victims of the disease were treated. There are heartbreaking stories of people losing their livelihoods once they admit they are HIV positive. However, the book is not all doom and gloom – there are many inspirational stories here from sufferers who feel very well and enjoy living life to the full.

Of course these days, treatment options have increased the lifespan for the majority of HIV sufferers, and being HIV positive is not necessarily the death sentence it once was. AIDS victims were always in the news back in 1992, but a quarter of a century later it’s hardly mentioned at all.

Recommended for those who would like to delve a little bit into the early days of HIV/AIDS.

Engaging and inspirational
Edwin C, 30 December 2017. Amazon.co.uk
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. Thankyou
An appealing book about people with AIDS  
 12 October 2017. Amazon.com

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