Positive: A Graphic Novelette of Life With HIV

Tom Bouden’s story of a woman diagnosed as HIV positive and how she and her partner deal with it is typical of these kinds of well-meaning comics. Sarah and Tim bring up, in useful and informative form, many of the things readers should know about the condition and the experience of living with it, but they never seem fully like real people, since the need to convey facts takes precedence over the story.

Positive: A Graphic Novelette of Life With HIV

You’ll know it’s taking place in another country (Bouden is Belgian) from early on, when the doctor makes a house call. More significantly, the cost of treatment never comes up between the couple. In the US, that would have to be one of the top two worries. (After the universal concern of “when am I going to die?”) Positive: A Graphic Novelette of Life With HIV is well-drawn, in European clean-line style. There’s a lot of conversation — most of the book is people talking to each other in pairs — but the figures at least display emotion and gesture.

Positive by Tom Bouden sample page

My favorite part is the friendship that springs up between Sarah and Ayanda, another patient. My least favorite is how whiny Tim gets about how inconvenienced he’ll be if his girlfriend dies and he’ll have to take care of himself. Many people have such worries, and it’s honest to present them, but this gets back to him not being sympathetic because I don’t know enough about this character as a person. Is this typical of his behavior? Uncharacteristic? It feels flat and unpleasant to me.

This story is available digitally for $3.99 US in either PDF or EPUB format. It’s 49 pages, but given how dense the panels are on the page, it feels like more. (That’s not a slam, but a statement of value. See the sample page.) The tiers also make it easy to read online, as you can scroll through part of the page without missing the big picture, since small panels are used throughout. Note that there are sections with nudity and depictions of sex in this comic, so be careful where you read it if that’s a concern. Showing them in the act does work to keep the reader’s visual interest while the characters discuss safe sex techniques.

I wish this was available in print, because it seems to me that it would be useful as a gift to those who’d like to (or should) know more about the situation or as a reminder to those suffering that there are examples of others going through similar struggles. It’s a lot more difficult to gift a digital file, or for someone given one to avoid ignoring it.

2 Responses to “Positive: A Graphic Novelette of Life With HIV”

  1. Joe Palmer Says:

    I wish it were available in print for the same reason as well as for public health departments to share with newly diagnosed people.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oh, yes, that would be a wonderful outlet.

    Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Palmer wrote a terrific introduction for this book, about HIV diagnosis, Bouden’s work, and the affect of this work on readers.




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