World AIDS Day: More for those who want to read

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There are many, many books out there about HIV/AIDS. Although the subject is vast – so much so that even experts don’t know it all – you don’t need to know everything about it to be able to take action.

But there are some basics you do need to know. Stephanie Nolen’s 28 Stories of AIDS helps you understand (to a certain extent) the human side of HIV/AIDS and it’s devastating effects not as statistics, but as individual stories.

Hopefullly you will be inpired to read more on the subject; if so, Helen Epstein’s The Invisible Cure: Why we are losing the fight against AIDS in Africa is a great book to start (or, even if you have a bit of knowledge about the pandemic, to continue).

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.


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