There were approximately 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016 – The World Health Organisation
Simone is loving high school life. She’s made great friends, she’s directing the school musical and she’s dating Miles, the most attractive boy in school. She’s also HIV positive – something she wishes to keep quiet at her school because the last time she told someone, the reaction was devastating. But then, Simone finds an anonymous note in her locker that threatens to expose her and completely turn her world upside down…
There’s a huge stigma surrounding HIV that’s been there for years. If I’m being honest, I’ve never read a book that openly and directly addresses this stigma.
Ever since I read ‘Full Disclosure’ by Camryn Garrett, I’ve been thinking about the importance of having a simple conversation.
It sounds weird, right? But in this case, unless we have a conversation with someone we never know what’s truly going on with them.
That being said, I think, at one point we’ve all allowed our ignorance to create a perception of something/someone based on inaccurate or hyperbolic situations/information.
Which is why ‘Full Disclosure’ is a Young Adult novel that not only attempts to desensitise the stigma surrounding HIV but also encourages a conversation.
So just to begin, I wanted to get the official definition of HIV.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. If untreated, a person’s immune system will eventually completely deteriorate.
What I really liked about this novel is that Garrett didn’t hold back. She really went into detail about HIV and how it can affect someone’s life. What was beautiful is that she emphasised that when under control, those affected by the virus, can live normal lives. They aren’t any different to you or me. They simply just have to have regular checks their virus levels.
This novel does not overly bombard you with information. You’re actually educated on a lot to do with HIV. An incredible YA novel that talks about race and the LGBTQ+ community.
Before I read ‘Full Disclosure’, I didn’t know about a lot of things. For instance:
I didn’t know about the U=U rule, which is “if someone’s viral load, the level of HIV, is undetectable, the virus is untransmittable.” To be safe it’s better to wait six months of undetectable HIV levels, before you have sex.
I also didn’t know that if you’re in a relationship with someone who has HIV, you can take tablets that prevent you from contracting it.
I also learnt that many of us believe that we’re entitled to certain information – especially if it affects us. Which is true.
But what’s important is that the person who has HIV should have the choice whether they want to disclose that information about themselves or not.
As Simone says:
“My HIV isn’t a threat to you but your ignorance is a threat to me…” – Simone
What Simone went through was literal proof of that.
Those with HIV can face so much persecution simply from those who do not know all the facts and make assumptions based off the little things they do know. And with things such as the internet, there’s actually no excuse to be so ignorant anymore. If you don’t understand, there’s so many other ways to educate yourself. Read books or even start a conversation with someone who may have more knowledge about the topic than you.
I can’t express enough that leaning on your own understanding of something, that isn’t backed by factual knowledge, can be so dangerous.
Camryn Garrett did extensive research into HIV and the US epidemic. At the end of the novel, she provides details of all the blogs and websites she used to make sure the facts were right.
She also brushes over some issues of race. She mentions a lot of usual frustrations towards racism, fetishisation and even touching a black girl’s hair. In all honesty, I get why she mentioned it. It’s difficult to write from a perspective of a black character and not mention racism, especially with the way the world is today. I’m also glad that she didn’t go into it too much. I felt like the main message of this novel was to raise awareness of the stigma surrounding HIV and how it can directly/indirectly affect someone with this virus.
Simone was a young girl who wanted to avoid society’s judgement for as long as possible because of how cruel people can be. But yet, she was robbed of her decision to keep her health private. She became a victim and labelled by society simply because nobody asked questions and they all assumed the worst.
A beautiful novel that only reinforces the importance of being kind, which just so happens to be the theme this year for Mental Health Awareness Week.
So as we end this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, please just take the time to be kind to each other, you can never know what someone else is going through – Garrett conveys Simone as evidence of this.
Be kind in the sense that you can take the start a conversation with someone who suffers with the virus. You can do the research for yourself, through the internet or other sources.
Even pick up this book…I promise you won’t regret it.
But whatever you do, don’t allow your own fears to formulate your opinions of others, especially when you don’t have any knowledge about the situation.
It costs nothing to be kind.
A few websites for more information about HIV:
NHS website – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/
Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids