Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Book in Progress

Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin met while both were working in southern Africa. Craig was the Johannesburg bureau chief for The Washington Post. Daniel was a pioneering AIDS researcher, based in Swaziland (now at Harvard). When Craig's four-year tour ended in July 2008, they agreed to co-author a book on why the billions of dollars spent on battling AIDS in Africa had failed to turn back the tide of the epidemic.
Their developing collaboration, under the working title Dr. Livingstone's Children: Why We Are Losing the War on AIDS, and How to Win, uses the latest research to trace the epidemic back to its beginning, when the forces of colonialism pulled a fragile, hard-to-spread virus out of remoted Cameroonian rainforest and set it loose in the world. Each step of its century-long journey, the authors conclude, offer crucial insights into why HIV has settled so tenaciously into some parts of Africa, and how it might finally be curbed.
The book pays particular attention to issues of culture, with an emphasis on the role shifting sexual mores and fading circumcision rituals have played in the epidemic's curious path through the world. An ignorance of African society--how people really live, versus the caricatures favored by fundraising appeals--is at the root of many of the failed prevention strategies of today. No amount of money alone will turn back AIDS if the world fails to ground its response to the epidemic in the lives of those most urgently affected.
Look for "Dr. Livingstone's Children" in early 2010. Watch this space for updates.