Frederik Peeters began his graphic novel, Blue Pills, as an experiment. Having just finished writing a long, difficult work of fiction, he needed a topic that would be “fast, energetic.” What he found was his own story—that of his real-life love for a positive woman and her positive son. HIV has long driven autobiography and art, but its presence in the graphic novel—such as in Judd Winick’s Pedro and Me and Darren Davis’ Lost Raven—is more recent.

Blue Pills follows Fred, a chain-smoking, rarely shaven, HIV-negative starving artist. In the cafés and hospitals of Geneva, he confronts his feelings for Cati and his fears of HIV. His experience is tangible in the brushstrokes of the drawings. “I didn’t want to make a perfect book,” Peeters says. “I wanted to make a living book.”