There are many illnesses with stigmas attached to them, and HIV is one of the most prolific. For someone who suffers with it, they might feel a sense of shame. But you aren’t alone and the wonderful thing about comics is they hold up a mirror to society and give people hope. Mia Dearden, the second Speedy, is the most prominent HIV-positive superhero, and her story is an example of how a person should never stop fighting.
Mia was created by writer Kevin Smith and artist Phil Hester, first appearing in Green Arrow #2 in 2001. Abused by her father, Mia ran away at a young age and lived on the streets. She eventually fell in love with a man who offered her shelter, but he roped her into a child prostitution ring. Mia was rescued from one of her clients by Green Arrow and she soon saw through his disguise and recognised him as Oliver Queen.
In 2004, writer Judd Winick revealed that she was HIV-positive because of her exploitation. Mia had wanted to become Ollie’s new ward, but he’d been reluctant to put another teenager at risk. She told Ollie that she wanted to use whatever time she had left to help people, that she wanted it to have meaning. She asserted her independence by telling Ollie that she’d continue to fight for what’s right, whether he liked it or not. Her selflessness finally convinced Green Arrow to take her on as the new Speedy and he trained her to use a bow.
Then, Mia joined the Teen Titans and she told them about her illness after her first official mission. Mia expected them to reject her, but the Titans accepted her without question. That is the true meaning of family. There was no judgement, no stigma. The Titans were only concerned with making sure Mia was okay.
A crucial story that Mia was involved in was her conflict with the second Robin, Jason Todd. Jason believed they were similar in many ways: both lived on the streets and had to do bad things to survive. Jason was trying to prove a point and though he defeated Speedy, he let her escape. His words apparently affected her on some level.
Even with her illness, Mia is an accomplished archer. She’s an expert fighter and swordsman, having been trained by Green Arrow and Black Canary. This proves that Mia isn’t defined by her illness and that she can continue to live her life to the fullest.
Mia is a great role model for anyone who’s suffering with HIV. She serves as a reminder that you can rise above stigma and find meaning with people who care.