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The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS Paperback – December 1, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For all the devastation and suffering AIDS has caused worldwide, we have devoted surprisingly little attention to its beginnings. Former UN official and BBC correspondent Edward Hooper hopes to find the source of AIDS in The River, a stunningly comprehensive yet deeply engaging scientific history of the disease. Through more than 10 years of research comprising over 600 interviews and untold hours of library work, Hooper has uncovered a complex, interlocking set of stories--of scientific research, of medical assistance to the Third World, of political and economic exigencies that drive the courses of our lives--and brought them together in over 1,000 pages of text, footnotes, references, and illustrations.

His thesis, that HIV made the jump from simians to humans via the administration of oral polio vaccine in Africa in the 1950s, is still controversial, but his arguments are powerful, broad, and undeniable--all that is lacking is conclusive proof. Like a good scientist (and, sad to say, unlike any HIV researcher to date), he offers several easy tests of his hypothesis. His tales of brilliant epidemiological deductions, biochemical comparisons, and physiological insights ought to convince the medical establishment that the answer can and should be found, both to help us deal with the current crisis and to keep us from creating new ones of its ilk. In a litigation-weary world, though, it seems that it will take the kind of tireless, impartial research found in The River to show us--and our leaders--that blame should take a back seat to truth when extreme circumstances demand it. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For possibly thousands of years, the simian precursor to the AIDS virus existed among chimpanzees in central Africa. How did it jump species to humans? And why did it happen in the middle of the 20th century? Hooper's radical conclusion is that it was passed on as the result of well-meaning but misguided human intervention. He contends that experimental polio vaccines that were administered widely among populations near where AIDS emerged were manufactured from infected chimp kidneys. The author, a BBC correspondent in Africa, spent over a decade researching this book, in which he quotes from hundreds of interviews and cites thousands of articles from medical journals; his views cannot be easily dismissed. Aware that his theory is controversial, he calls for an independent council of scientists to investigate the matter. Whether that occurs or not, Hooper raises many issues that merit the attention of the global medical community. This very readable book is for all libraries.AGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1168 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1st Back Bay pbk. ed edition (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316371378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316371377
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Newton Ooi on September 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book refers to the Congo River of Africa. This great river became famous in Western minds in the 1800s with the journeys of Dr. Livingstone. Later, it would be the setting of The Heart of Darkness. Doctors and scientists in the heart of darkness indeed as The River explains in its long, well-documented, exhaustive tale of secretive, unregulated medical research. This book's author interviews hundreds of individuals involved in this process, goes over countless documents, and from it, pieces together the following story.

After WWII there was a race to find a vaccine for polio that could be administered orally. Numerous groups of scientists from around the world took part in this race; the prize being fame, fortune, and patents galore. In public, these teams agreed to perform all their research in Western countries, document everything, and only conduct tests on adults who had signed written consent forms. In reality, many of these teams flocked to the Africa Congo to perform large-scale tests on unwitting and unknowing human populations, often without oversight by the press or medical institutions. These groups would inject various African primates with polio, extract serum from the infected primates, and using this serum to make experimental vaccines which would then be given to the local human populations.

This book contends that by this process, HIV was accidentally transmitted from certain monkeys into humans. The author provides numerous pieces of evidence in proof of this theory. First, the very same villages in the Congo where HIV was first discovered also happened to be the very same villages in which the polio tests were performed. Second, HIV was diagnosed in these villages 10 - 20 years after the polio tests were performed.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it is because I am a physician with a background in public health who also had polio as a child that I am so captivated by the narrative that Mr.Hooper tells. In spite of its length (and weight) I could not put the book down till I finished it. Mr. Hooper is an extraordinary persistant journalist and detective as well as raconteur, ferreting out details of process, politics, culture, and personality to weave an extraordinary story about the possible origins of the AIDS epidemic. In spite of the fact that he is the ardent advocate of a horrific iconoclastic hypothesis he tells the story of his searches in a most honest andeven handed way. His laying out in fine detail the history of the development of the polio vaccine, of medical research in tropical Africa, Europe and the United States both in technical terms and in the personalities involved, and the investigation of the earliest AIDS cases is a tour de force. All this in a first person narrative that reads like a detective story. As a reader I felt introduced on intimate level to the many people and locales on three continents where these events unfold. This book teaches us to admire the verve, creativity, and daring of medical innovators as well as their arrogance, while at the same time, whatever actually happended, the events in retrospect constitute a spiritual lesson in humility.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If there was a Nobel Prize for Journalism, Hooper should get it. Step by step he takes you through his investigations and interviews, seeking to prove the link between the sudden appearance of HIV-1 and some shabbily-constructed mass trials of a polio vaccine in the 1950s. In a vanity contest with Sabin and Salk, the lesser-known Koprowski took various experimental shortcuts that seem reckless in hindsight. It's amazing to see the way Hooper cuts through the obfuscations and obstructions of the science establishment, and sifts facts from the few living people associated with the trials. With the casual racism of the day, these were mostly conducted in the Congo, or on handicapped children or newborns at prisons and hospitals in the US. A sneaking suspicion that 'Hooper may be right' builds into almost total conviction that this theory bears intensive investigation by the time you reach the halfway mark. Almost incredibly, the records of these 'trials' -- I put them in quote marks because they were not properly conducted, by any scientific standards of today, or of the time -- are either incomplete, or 'missing.' The book reflects no credit on the drug industry, doctors' codes of secrecy, or medical ethics. Quite probably, if Hopper has it right -- and it seems he does -- some of the living players ought to be facing a grand jury investigation, in view of the millions who have suffered in the resulting plague of AIDS. It's the science book of the year, unparalleled since Rhodes' "Making Of The Atomic Bomb."
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Format: Paperback
As a Biology and Pre-med student in 1999, I purchased this book fresh off the shelf, when it was first being sold. Dedicated to the world of science and research, I was eager to learn more about health, science, diseases, and the epidemic called AIDS.

As other reviewers have stated, this book is an excellent body of investigative research. It is also speculative in some instances to bridge the gaps between science and reality. I believe Hooper stayed as neutral as possible. He did interview many people, but guards against letting contaminate his own views in recording the evidence. The results are very clear and concise. The answers are all supported very thoroughly.

This book was inspiring to me because it opened the eyes of a dedicated young scientist (myself) to the dangers of science. There is corruption in every system, even one founded on saving people's lives! For the love of humanity, I do not understand how competition and greed has been so interlaced with our medical system from researchers to personal doctors, but it has. People should know the truth. This book takes one huge step towards revealing it! Aids is not the only epidemic or disease created by our own hands.

Thank you Mr. Hooper!

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