An AIDS Memoir of One Man’s Struggle as Doctor, Patient and Survivor
Andrew M. Faulk
“When young Dr. Andrew Faulk first learned he was HIV-positive, he was devastated for it certainly meant imminent death… Due to the rigors and stress of training, he considered abandoning his medical career. But, instead, he dedicated the remainder of his life to the fight against AIDS, ultimately participating in the care of approximately 50 patients who died, many his own peers, including his partner.”
What is there I can say about this book? It is both heartbreaking and uplifting, sad and joyful at the same time. The memoirs that I have read recently didn’t pass muster. My Epidemic does. Andrew shows sensitivity and self-awareness, and his story does bring something new to the bookshelf. To me, Andrew showed the early tenants of ‘active listening’ to his patients, even as he faced most of them going too-early to the grave. This naturally took a toll on this compassionate doctor, leading to him leaving the profession.
This is a book by a man who knows how to actively listen, who knows how to empathise and grieve, and is willing to share what story has taken place in his life so far. Personally, I felt cheated to an extent. This memoir is filled with two page summaries of patients and friends Andrew has known and nursed. I wanted more information – but perhaps to include more would have crossed the confidential patient-doctor boundary.
I particularly appreciated the epilogue on COVID-19. Thankfully, Australia has not been as hard pressed by COVID-19 as the overburdened USA healthcare system. It didn’t occur to me to parallel the two epidemics. HIV/AIDs seems to be so far in the past – I always thought of AIDs as belonging to third world countries (reinforced by other books I had read). I’ve read novels on the 1980s epidemic or current life with HIV, but they didn’t resonate with me in the same way as this memoir.
When I corresponded with Andrew and his publicist, I felt listened to and appreciated (he even addressed my beloved birdie in my signed copy of the book!). Treating your reviewer with respect for their time will always lead to a tick in my book, and lead to this book being read almost as soon as it arrived.
The gay men in my life are HIV-negative as far as I know, and I know that many are taking PReP to minimize their chances of contracting HIV. Advances in medicine such as these have changed the face of disease burdens and perhaps minimized their significance, in Western countries at least. Thank you Andrew for bringing the AIDs epidemic back into context and not letting those brothers who were victims of this disease be forgotten.