In the Shadow of the Epidemic

Being HIV-Negative in the Age of AIDS

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: July 1995

Author: Walt Odets

Activism, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Medicine and Health > Public Health and Health Policy

For gay men who are HIV-negative in a community devastated by AIDS, survival may be a matter of grief, guilt, anxiety, and isolation. In the Shadow of the Epidemic is a passionate and intimate look at the emotional and psychological impact of AIDS on the lives of the survivors of the epidemic, those who must face on a regular basis the death of friends and, in some cases, the decimation of their communities. Drawing upon his own experience as a clinical psychologist and a decade-long involvement with AIDS/HIV issues, Walt Odets explores the largely unrecognized matters of denial, depression, and identity that mark the experience of uninfected gay men.
Odets calls attention to the dire need to address issues that are affecting HIV-negative individuals—from concerns about sexuality and relations with those who are HIV-positive to universal questions about the nature and meaning of survival in the midst of disease. He argues that such action, while explicitly not directing attention away from the needs of those with AIDS, is essential to the human and biological well-being of gay communities. In the immensely powerful firsthand words of gay men living in a semiprivate holocaust, the need for a broader, compassionate approach to all of the AIDS epidemic’s victims becomes clear. In the Shadow of the Epidemic is a pathbreaking first step toward meeting that need.


“What Odets says about being and staying HIV-negative is so commonsensical as to seem radical in this age of obfuscation. But it’s time to stop pretending that the psychological damage of the AIDS epidemic does not affect how uninfected men feel about themselves and how they have sex. It’s time to stop pretending that it’s ‘normal’ that so many of the people we have loved have died at young ages or that it’s ‘normal’ because we’re gay that we have to worry about a fatal infection each time we make love. It’s not normal and it’s not okay, and I, for one, am thankful to Walt Odets for standing up and saying so.” — John-Manuel Andriote , Lambda Book Report

"Odets presents an often harrowing picture of frailty and vulnerability on a massive scale, and his book is a much-needed corrective to the complacent view that everything is basically OK in the domain of gay men’s safer sex education. In the Shadow of the Epidemic will doubtless become an instant locus classicus for subsequent debate about the short- and long-term psychological impact of the epidemic and the types of intervention necessary to reduce wide-scale suffering." — Simon Watney, author of Practices of Freedom: Selected Writings on HIV/AIDS


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Walt Odets is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Berkeley, California. A member of the AIDS Task Force of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, he has spoken and written frequently on the psychosocial issues of HIV-negative men and AIDS prevention for gay men. He is also an editor and contributor for the series AIDS Management: The Role of the Mental Health Community and a contributing author to Therapists on the Front Line: Psychotherapy with Gay Men in the Age of AIDS.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1638-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1626-8
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