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HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a disease spread through certain bodily fluids that suppresses the body's immune system. The late symptoms of HIV, wherein the body is very vulnerable to opportunistic infection, is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. The World Health Organization estimates HIV/AIDS has killed more than 35 million people.

Lycanthropy is a mythical concept wherein a person turns into a bloodthirsty wolf once a month during the full moon. A lycanthrope is also known as a "werewolf."

If you're looking at these two things, a very real disease and a very not real fictional trope, and wondering what sort of connection there is between the two, you are not Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

In a recently-released ebook of trivia surrounding the world of Harry Potter, Rowling says that the character of Remus Lupin, a werewolf who serves as a Hogwarts professor, was meant as a metaphor for the stigma faced by people with diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Lupin's condition of lycanthropy was a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV and AIDS. All kinds of superstitions seem to surround blood-borne conditions, probably due to taboos surrounding blood itself. The wizarding community is as prone to hysteria and prejudice as the Muggle one, and the character of Lupin gave me a chance to examine those attitudes.


Yes, it's true, people did unnecessarily fear Lupin in the Harry Potter world.¬†He was no threat to them on nights when there wasn't a full moon. Of course, when there was a full moon, he'd turn into a vicious beast without control of his actions that could infect others by biting them‚ÄĒwhich is‚Ķmaybe not the best metaphor to use if you want to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

The revelation did not go over well on social media,¬†mostly because people kind of couldn't believe that Rowling was making a parallel between the two conditions‚ÄĒone of which requires a lifetime of daily management, the other of which turns you into a wolf.



Rowling probably had good intentions in making this connection, but one thing I'm not sure she understands is that it's not so much a question of whether the metaphor works (though it doesn't). It's a question of whether the metaphor is necessary. For all its wands and witchcraft, Harry Potter is set in contemporary Britain, where HIV/AIDS is a real illness people actually have, including probably quite a few of her readers.


If Rowling really wanted Lupin's life to be a statement about the stigma faced by those with HIV/AIDS, here's how easy it would be.

"I have HIV/AIDS," Lupin said.

There you go.