Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HIV/AIDS: The Fact & The Fiction (BOOK REVIEW)

HIV/AIDS: The Facts and The Fiction
by Chris Jennings
Health Alert Communications  
Paperback, $45.00
212 pages
ISBN: 978-0-936571-11--9
Book Review by Kam Williams

“Unfortunately, a series of interlocking misconceptions have distorted scientific and public perceptions of HIV and the AIDS epidemic… Given a sober review, the scientific literature is clear: (1) New York City is the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic; (2) the theory that HIV came from monkeys is a fallacy; and (3) the African AIDS epidemic-as-holocaust never manifested.
The goal of this work is to reconfigure the conceptual paradigm of the HIV/AIDS epidemic such that resource allocations and healthcare interventions work to serve the benefit, and not the detriment, of the populations at need.”
-- Excerpted from the Preface (pg. xiii)

            A few years ago, I saw a documentary about AIDS which began by asking which of a number of places had the highest HIV infection rate. I was shocked to learn that the correct answer to the question was the only American city on the list, Washington, DC, since all the other choices were either in Africa or the Caribbean.
            I had unwittingly fallen prey to the conventional wisdom which has led most people to believe that AIDS originally started in Africa where it had infected millions of victims for decades prior to crossing the Atlantic and arriving on these shores around 1980. That piece of propaganda simply isn’t true, according to Chris Jennings, a Harvard-educated medical writer who has staked his career in the field of HIV research.
            He has devoted much of the last 20 years in quest of the truth about the AIDS epidemic. The upshot of that herculean effort is HIV/AIDS: The Facts and The Fiction, a seminal work which does an excellent job of dispelling myths in the hope of educating the populace and encouraging politicians and the medical community to reorder their priorities.
            For example, the author argues that because of the widespread belief that Africa is the epicenter of AIDS, a disproportionate amount of resources are wasted on circumcisions and/or anti-retroviral drugs on patients there who aren’t apt to be infected. Meanwhile, the readily-winnable fights against more lethal diseases on the continent, like pneumonia and diarrhea, go underfunded. 
            Such surprising revelations abound in Jennings’ informative reference text. Though academic in nature, his encyclopedic treatise nevertheless arrives augmented by a helpful glossary which makes it all accessible to the layman by explaining the meanings of dozens of such obscure terms as “cytotoxic,” ”immunoglobulin” and “neurotropic”.
            A priceless primer which corrects plenty of prevailing misconceptions about AIDS merely by accurately reporting medical evidence rather than re-circulating false rumors.  

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