Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Walker Books; First Edition edition (June 2, 2008)
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
Best Sellers Rank: #462,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books) #63 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Diseases & Physical Ailments > AIDS #87 in Books > Medical Books > Medicine > Internal Medicine > Pathology > Diseases > AIDS & HIV #324 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > Africa
There are many tragic narrative accounts of AIDS, but Stephanie Nolen's book "28: Stories of AIDS in Africa" is particularly shocking. The reader is forced to confront the real-life human consequences of: the arms trade to Africa; the patriarchal family hierarchies which deny women access to basic health care, birth control, and autonomy over their own sexuality; the unimaginable health care resource gap between the Western world and Africa; and most disturbing, the conservative fundamentalist ideology of U.S. foreign policy and faith-based charities, which prevents dissemination of live-saving accurate medical information and condoms.Nolen is effective at piercing the veil which readers inherently draw to insulate themselves from African AIDS carriers. You will meet HIV-positive mothers, grandmothers, and working parents trying to raise kids. You will meet bright, college-educated Africans who were living parallel lives and following career paths not unlike your own, until they were struck by AIDS. Some are church-going Christians, community leaders, or members of the educated elite. Readers interested in playing the 'blame game' will be hard pressed to find promiscuity or other so-called failings among most of the people depicted in the stories. Most of the victims practiced monogamy. You begin to appreciate the fact that we are HIV-negative not because we are morally or intellectually superior, but through the circumstances of fate and luck of being born in the West, which have granted us the 'privilege' of autonomy over our bodies, our sexual and reproductive health, and access to medical care and knowledge.
The introductory maps seize your attention. "Adult prevalence of HIV /AIDS" on one page and the people represented in the "stories" on the opposite. There's a swath of dark shading across southwest Africa - that's "Over 20%". To the east, the shade is lighter - "15 - 20%", with two darker smudges labelled "Swaziland" and "Lesotho" - islands of tragedy. At the top, "5 - 15%" predominates, lower numbers hiding the intensity of conditions. Stephanie Nolen's subjects' names run across the other map - the individuals whose stories are related here.The numbers often lead to "AIDS fatigue" - too many big numbers; surpassing our ability to grasp them. The millions of people infected with HIV/AIDS seem beyond comprehension. After consulting the various estimates, Nolen surmises about 28 million for Africa, approaching the entire population of Canada. Each day, something like 5500 will die of the effects of the infection - two-thirds the population of my community. Every day. All year long. The adage runs: "One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic." Yet, that "million" represents that many "ones", and each one has a story. Nolen gives us those stories, making one person represent a million others. It's a formidable burden for the afflicted and the writer alike, but Nolen's skill effectively allows the reader to take it all in measured doses.The opening story is, appropriately, a woman. In Swaziland, women don't turn to activism. They were traditionally forbidden to wear pants until 2003 and the right to own property was only granted in 2006. The little nation has the last monarch in Africa - who has thirteen wives and a fleet of autos. Siphiwe Hlophe had borne children with a man who delayed marriage for years.
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