“Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS: A Memoir” by Derek Frost— Resolving to Survive

Frost, Derek. “Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS: A Memoir”, Watkins Publishing, 2021.

Resolving to Survive

Amos Lassen

Derek is a distinguished designer and J, his husband is an entrepreneur and creator of The Embassy Club, London’s answer to Studio 54, and iconic Heaven, Europe’s largest gay discotheque. They met and fell in love more than 40 years ago. Suddenly their friends began to get sick and die with the AIDS epidemic becoming part of their lives. J tested HIV Positive and the two confronted their personal crisis with courage, humor and resolve to survive. J battled the disease for long years. With J’s illness, Derek turned to spiritual reflection, yoga, nature and love and he went through a transformation  from which came Aids Ark, the charity they founded that helped to save, more than 1,000 HIV Positive lives. In this book, Derek speaks for a generation who lived through a global health crisis that many refused even to acknowledge.

We read about the people Derek and J knew and see how they came together and grew as a couple. They lived lives filled with adventure and travel. with both famous and mundane was wonderful. They always find time to love each other and to be friends. Even though they lived in a monogamous relationship, they still allowed each other to be sexually free. They felt were secure enough in their love for one another that this was caused no issues for them. 

J and Derek suffered many losses to the AIDS pandemic. They watched friends die from the terrible yet preventable disease such a horrible and now preventable disease and this was for me hard, but necessary, to read. Their work via AIDS Ark changed the lives of thousands of people. 

After 27 years as a couple, Derek and J legally became a married couple. The kind of lives they led makes us better understand the losses they felt— they lost so many friends and gay life as they knew seemed to be slipping away.  With J’s health getting better, they felt the need to give something back and help others. By reading about their glamorous lives in the first part of the book, we really feel the impact of AIDS on them. While this a memoir, it is also part history and a love letter to the couple and to those they lost. For me, it is a reminder of how hard it was to fight the disease and ourselves.