From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Epstein, a public health specialist and molecular biologist who has worked on AIDS vaccine research, overturns many of our received notions about why AIDS is rampant in Africa and what to do about it. She charges that Western governments and philanthropists, though well-meaning, have been wholly misguided, and that Africans themselves, who understand their own cultures, often know best how to address HIV in their communities. Most significant is Epstein's discussion of concurrent sexual relations in Africa. Africans often engage in two or three long-term concurrent relationships—which proves more conducive to the spread of AIDS than Western-style promiscuity. Persuade Africans to forgo concurrency for monogamy, and the infection rate plummets, as it did in Uganda in the mid-1990s. On the other hand, ad campaigns focused on condom use helped imply falsely that only prostitutes and truck drivers get AIDS. In addition, Epstein examines what she calls the "African earthquake": social and economic upheaval that have also eased the spread of HIV. Epstein is a lucid writer, translating abstruse scientific concepts into language nonspecialists can easily grasp. Provocative, passionate and incisive, this may be the most important book on AIDS published this year—indeed, it may even save lives. (May)
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Some countries in Africa report that approximately one-third of their adult populations are infected with HIV. Epstein wondered how such a state of affairs came about. Seeking answers, she contracted with a biotechnical company to go to Africa and work toward discovering an AIDS vaccine. What she subsequently learned exploded some preconceived and widely shared notions about AIDS, about how African culture all but ensures its spread, and about what might be a deceptively simple answer to the complex question of how to stem that spread. Her absorbing report reveals governmental inefficiencies and medical bureaucracies and social structures that have done nothing to slow the epidemic's pace—and may be accelerating it. Besides the epidemic's social and medical aspects, she discusses the business of AIDS, and she examines the mystery of how the HIV infection rate dropped some 70 percent between 1992 and 1997 in Uganda and the Kagera region of Tanzania; she believes that the invisible cure involved in that plunge provides clues to resolving the issue of AIDS in Africa generally. Chavez, Donna Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved