A couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of Stephanie Nolen’s book “28 Stories of AIDS in Africa”. Although no one posted comments on the blog (WHAT am I going to do with y’all?), I did receive a good dozen emails. Some of you had already read the book; many of you went and bought it after reading my review. All of you had questions, some of them entertaining, some quite challenging.
Two of your questions I’d like to address in public.
First of all, I don’t get a cut from Chapters for every book sold because of my reviews. At least, not yet… So please, do feel free to send Chapters an email suggesting they give me a cut or something.
The second question I also often got was what book should one purchase to find out more about the HIV/AIDS pandemic? Well, while there are many great books out there, the one I’d particularly recommend is Helen Epstein’s The Invisible Cure: Why we are losing the fight against AIDS in Africa.
While the title would lead us to believe that the book covers only the African epidemic, Mrs. Epstein leads into the topic by first going over the entire history of HIV/AIDS: what initially made the medical community sit up and take notice, what happened in the gay communities of America and Europe, how and when the virus was identified, the discovery of antiretrovirals and the subsequent decline of AIDS related deaths in rich countries.
Mrs. Epstein then explains why conditions in Africa prevented the successful containment of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and how the virus has spread through the entire population. She also explains some cutting edge public health theories as to why the epidemic is still rampant and current public health interventions aren’t going to resolve the situation.
I didn’t think that a scientifically rigorous book containing this much information about HIV/AIDS could be read so easily – yet this book was just that. Eloquent, rigorously scientific and qui thorough, Mrs. Epstein has managed to write a book that will appeal to both the uninitiated and those already working on the field. While you won’t read much about the current epidemic in the Americas, Europe and in Asia, there are hints that are posted throughout the book; also, the basic knowledge you will gain about HIV/AIDS will help you read other books on the subject.
For those of you who are currently swamped with readings for school or end of year reports for work, you could make do for now with an interview Helen Epstein did about her book. It pretty much is a detailed synopsis of her book. I personally found it a great overview of the book after I read it, but it can also be a great way to introduce yourself to the book before you read it.