The Origins of AIDS and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
  • List Price: $29.99
  • Save: $6.42 (21%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Want it Tuesday, April 22? Order within and choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
Trade in your item
Get a $3.83
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more

The Origins of AIDS Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0521186377 ISBN-10: 0521186374 Edition: 1st

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from Collectible from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$17.98 $8.28


Frequently Bought Together

The Origins of AIDS + Worries of the Heart: Widows, Family, and Community in Kenya + One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir
Price for all three: $60.03

Buy the selected items together


Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521186374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521186377
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Despite the scientific advances made since the discovery of HIV, questions of the pandemic's origin still trouble us. Why us? Why now? How could this happen? Pepin's remarkable book provides, at last, a comprehensive answer. Three decades of scientific and historical research are distilled into an engaging, highly readable, and sometimes disturbing account of HIV's journey that will interest students and researchers of the virus and its fallible host." Oliver G Pybus, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

"In this scholarly and immensely readable account of the origin of AIDS, Dr Pepin draws on his personal experience of working in central Africa and his extensive knowledge of African history, as well as his training in infectious diseases, virology and epidemiology. Unlike others who have tackled the subject, he comes to it with an open mind, and this account is likely to be definitive." David Mabey, Professor of Communicable Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

"This first major re-assessment of the origin of AIDS since Hooper's The River, delves into the extensive archives on the AIDS epidemic. Weaving together the findings of many researchers currently working on the topic, it will undoubtedly stimulate discussion on a subject of great concern and interest: the historical record of the emergence of new viruses." -William H. Schneider, Professor of History, Indiana University

"The origin and early epidemiology of the Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) has been perplexing and controversial. Jacques Pepin provides a unique insight as an investigator who has spent years in several African countries and has contributed substantially to our knowledge of routes of transmission. We must learn from this history if we wish to avoid future pandemics." -Allan Ronald, Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba

"A great book on the evolutionary origin of HIV and the possible role of cultural and medical practices in Central Africa in the dissemination of the virus" -Max Essex, Lasker Professor at Harvard University and author of "Saturdays are for Funerals"

"Extensively referenced, the well-written book reads like a detective story, while at the same time providing a didactic introduction to epidemiology and evolutionary genetics. As far as the origins of AIDS are concerned, unless some completely new evidence emerges, it will be difficult to come up with a better explanation than Pepin's." -Science

"This is a beautifully written book, which explains epidemiological and scientific concepts such as phylogenetic analysis in clear and simple language. Pepin has assembled a vast amount of information from a wide variety of sources, and paints a clear, coherent and convincing account of the origins of AIDS. This book is required reading for anyone with a serious interest in infectious diseases." -David Mabey, Sexually Transmitted Infections

"Superb ... Pépin rightly argues that, apart from social factors promoting HIV spread, inherent properties of the virus must determine its fitness to become pandemic. He also provides the best analysis I have read of the declining HIV-2 epidemic in West Africa." -Nature

"An impressive feat of scientific scholarship ... absorbing throughout, interweaving quantitative data with historical narrative and lively biographies." -The Lancet

"This book is an excellent, fair-minded attempt to elucidate a much-contested story.' -Literary Review

"Pepin's achievement is formidable. He has mastered a vast technical literature in French and English, exploited the archives and material remains of colonial and postcolonial Africa, and knows his African history to boot. He writes with grace and feeling, and makes accessible the scientific and clinical issues. Above all, he comes across as a humane and caring doctor. This is a major contribution to our understanding of the scourge that has defined our times." -TLS

"The superb organization organization of the book is noteworthy; the reader is never left hanging, and the path to the next topic is always clear. Highly recommended." -Choice

"Pepin has written an absorbing analysis of the roots of the epidemic." -Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs

"The language of Pepin's book is academic, yet easily accessible to a lay, educated readership. Graphics, charts and maps emphasize the text content. The Origins of AIDS offers, for the first time, an in-depth look into the pandemic prior to 1981 and, with that, the missing pieces that complete the story of AIDS." -Alina Oswald, A&U, America's AIDS magazine

Book Description

A compelling new account of the origins and development of HIV/AIDS before the disease was first identified in 1981. Jacques Pepin looks back to the early twentieth-century events that triggered the most dramatic epidemic of modern times and presents a synthesis of its historical, political, medical and molecular dimensions.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 23 customer reviews
This quote from Dr. Pepin's epilogue says it all.
Thomas D. Worthen
If you are at all interested in disease in the modern world and it's interaction with social, economic and political effects this is a great case study.
Jacques Pepin has written a remarkable book that weaves together science, history, culture and economics.
R. Michael

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
This well written and fascinating book is a cogent attempt to reconstruct the process that generated the great HIV pandemic. The author is a Canadian infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist with considerable experience in HIV-related research, including a good deal of work in Africa. Based on a careful synthesis of research and his own archival investigations, Pepin presents a synthesis of molecular epidemiology, traditional epidemiology, and social history to explain the emergence of HIV.

Pepin begins with the generally accepted idea that HIV crossed from its chimpanzee ancestor in central Africa sometime in the early 20th century, very likely because of hunting of chimps for meat. This concept is supported by molecular phylogenetic reconstructions and the fact that the bush meat trade probably increased markedly in the relevant area of central Africa with greater demand for meat and greater availability of firearms. Pepin estimates the number of individuals affected in this way to be very small, perhaps as small as 1 - 2. These infections would have been a dead end without some amplifying mechanism, which Pepin suggests was the widespread use of parenteral treatments for several tropical diseases. In the first half of the 20th century, French and Belgian colonial governments pursued impressive public health campaigns to suppress Sleeping Sickness and other illnesses. Many of these campaigns involved indiscriminate use of parenteral treatments with reusable and inadequately sterilized needles and syringes, a fertile breeding ground of this type of viral infection. The result was an expanded pool of infected individuals in rural French and Belgian central Africa.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on November 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
HIV began as an obscure, poorly transmissible chimpanzee virus that may have infected only one person in an isolated part of rural Africa in 1920. How did it turn into a global plague? Pepin's book is a thoroughly fascinating, highly readable, and exhaustively researched account of how colonial public health efforts in central Africa during the 1920's-1950's amplified the virus. Tens of thousands of people were injected (often repeatedly) with unsterilized syringes in an effort to wipe out tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness and yaws. Meanwhile, urbanization and widespread prostitution in central African cities caused the virus to explode into the population. Ironically, STD clinics treating prostitutes and their clients in Leopoldville, in the Belgian Congo, may have played a crucial role in spreading the virus in the early years of the epidemic. This book serves as a good sequel of sorts to Randy Shilts' "And The Band Played On", which was written when much about the origin of AIDS was still a mystery. It would also be interesting to read along with "King Leopold's Ghost", which tells the tragic story of colonialism in the Belgian Congo. AIDS, it appears, is one of those restless ghosts.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By simpcity on October 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
from an injured bush hunter (or cook) in about 1921, SIVcpz (chimpanzee SIV) makes the leap to humans to become HIV. it was a leap that likely happened on more than one occasion. however, this time the european colonial drive on equatorial Africa had created conditions for a "perfect storm." how this one case led to tens of millions is quite a story.

the colonials wanted to make tropical Africa safe for their civilizing mission. well, at least safe for europeans! this meant eradicating endemic diseases and resulted in inoculation after inoculation with syringes that were not sterilized. (who knew, huh?) additionally, the civil war in the [former Belgian] Congo after independence created such poverty and disruption in the capital Leopoldville as to create the perfect environment for sexual acceleration of the virus through a new [for Africa] kind of high-volume cash-based prostitution.

a single Haitian UN contract worker in the now independent Congo then brings the virus home. in itself, this simple act might not have lead to contagion in Haiti were it not for a shadowy international plasma trade that found perfect conditions to operate under the dark tyranny of 'Baby Doc' Duvalier. from a pool of impoverished and infected plasma donors the virus is again accelerated through the sex trade. the leap to North America is swift and efficient, with gay men and IV drug users the first bridgehead and blood products close behind.

an elegant hypothesis, nicely documented, thoughtfully stated. without finger-pointing or shame. just brilliant! a must read! thank you, Jacques Pepin.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Occasional Amazonian on December 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First things first: You can read and understand this book.

When I read about this book in the New York Times I just had to get it for myself. I like non-fiction a lot (particularly modern history) and this is a topic that interests me (the origin of HIV/AIDS). I wanted to review this book already when I was halfway through.

Everyone brings certain strengths and weaknesses to a book. Here were my strengths.

1. I had read (the majority of) "And the Band Played On" by Randy Shilts as well as "The Coming Plague" by Laurie Garrett so I was familiar with what the author was trying to get across (tracing a disease across continents). More importantly I had known some of the facts before.
2. I've done a fair bit of science in school--so that helped me out a little bit.

My weaknesses:

1. I have a hard time following abbreviations.
2. I don't pick up on new terminology right away.
3. Statistics is a challenge for me.

That said, the author does a spectacular job writing for the lay reader. This is not dry academic writing at all. Do not think you will not understand.

He carefully lays out the pieces of the puzzle: all his assumptions and models and it's a thing of beauty. For example, he uses the spread of Hepatitis C and B as a way to figure out the spread of HIV across populations. He explains very carefully why we can trace HIV back to a similar virus (SIV) in chimpanzees--among many other examples. I was also very impressed with the way the author explained the date of first crossover of SIV to humans.

I was very pleased. Where he was not sure, he made it clear. He did not try to make things sensational--and it worked! I believe, now, (in my limited capacity for what it's worth) that this is as close to the truth about the origin and spread of HIV as I have ever read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Product Images from Customers

Most Recent Customer Reviews


What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?