“Fighting for Our Lives: The History of a Community Response to AIDS” by Nick Cook— AIDS and the Communities

Cook, Nick. “Fighting for Our Lives: The History of a Community Response to AIDS”, New South Books, 2020.

AIDS and the Communities

Amos Lassen

Nick Cooks’ “Fighting For Our Lives” is the story of communities directly affected by the AIDS crisis. We see how they took action against the ‘backdrop of illness and death, fear and anger, hate and discrimination.” These marginalized communities were made up primarily of gay men, sex workers and people who inject drugs united to form organizations during the darkest years of the epidemic and they gained  a voice and made themselves heard by those in power. They were able to build an alliance with politicians and medical experts that was heretofore unknown of and formed a three-way partnership that made Australia’s response to AIDS one of the most successful in the world. Writer Cook has captured the drama of the time as well as the stories of the people who were at the center of the life-or-death struggle. We can never allow ourselves to forget what they were able to do..

ACON (AIDS Council of New South Wales) and other LGBT community organizations sprang up during the AIDS epidemic of the mid 1980s  and early 1990s in Australia. Here is the birth of the organization. We learn of the heroism of those who fought for their lives, the lives of others and the fear of the loss of their community. They were filled with activism, the anger, the voice and the terror of those who dared to fight against government, hatred, homophobia and the unknowns of a disease that would take their lives. They suffered the trauma of AIDS, the reaction of the community, the reaction of government and the general public.

I could not stop reading thisaccount of the first decade of the epidemic as related through the formation, development and evolution of the AIDS Council of New South Wales.  Sydney was hit first and the hardest and Cook has been able to share the history of an organization that brought the community together while never forgetting  the tragic losses that became a part of everyday life. 

Cook writes with real curiosity and total respect for the founding members of the HIV response. Eulogies punctuate the story and they are beautiful in their sheer simplicity. Cook honors all who helped build the response to the disease and you do not have to be part of the story to cherish what is written here.

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