Review: AIDS Between Science and Politics

Book Title: AIDS Between Science and Politics

Book Author: Peter Piot

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: “Peter Piot, founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), recounts his experience as a clinician, scientist, and activist fighting the disease from its earliest manifestation to today. The AIDS pandemic was not only disruptive to the health of millions worldwide but also fractured international relations, global access to new technologies, and public health policies in nations across the globe. As he struggled to get ahead of the disease, Piot found science does little good when it operates independently of politics and economics, and politics is worthless if it rejects scientific evidence and respect for human rights.

Piot describes how the epidemic altered global attitudes toward sexuality, the character of the doctor-patient relationship, the influence of civil society in international relations, and traditional partisan divides. AIDS thrust health into national and international politics where, he argues, it rightly belongs. The global reaction to AIDS over the past decade is the positive result of this partnership, showing what can be achieved when science, politics, and policy converge on the ground. Yet it remains a fragile achievement, and Piot warns against complacency and the consequences of reduced investments. He refuses to accept a world in which high levels of HIV infection are the norm. Instead, he explains how to continue to reduce the incidence of the disease to minute levels through both prevention and treatment, until a vaccine is discovered.”

AIDS is a disease that never fails to both fascinate me and (mostly due to the poor initial response to the infection) terrify me.  Since its emergence in the human population, it has continued to elude researchers due to its rapid mutations, and there is still no preventive vaccine or cure.  Anyone who is under the impression that HIV/AIDS is no longer an issue is quite simply living in denial; especially when there are about 7,000 new infections and 5,000 deaths every single day. I don’t think that you can talk about the science of AIDS without going into the politics of AIDS.  There are still countries in the world that try to hide their increasing number of new infections, and there are still areas in developing countries where it is nearly impossible to be tested for HIV infection, let alone receive proper treatment.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read this new book from Dr. Piot, as he is someone who has been instrumental in research for AIDS prevention and treatment for decades.  In addition, he was also part of the team that helped to discover the Ebola virus, so as someone who is currently majoring in clinical research, he is someone that I admire greatly.  It is important to note that this text is incredibly detailed and is heavy with statistics and medical jargon.  Therefore, this is not a book that I can recommend to anyone who does not have a background in the basic sciences, or is not used to reading medical research in peer-reviewed journals.  I really viewed this book as sort of an “update” on the progress that AIDS researchers have made towards treatments and a vaccine, as well as a thorough examination on areas where improvement is still greatly needed.  And while we have made excellent strides in the fight against AIDS, as Piot points out, we must not let ourselves become complacent

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.


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