How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It

Book - 2012
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"Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg and Harvard AIDS researcher Daniel Halperin, PhD, recount for the first time how Western colonial powers unwittingly sparked the AIDS epidemic and then fanned its rise. Drawing on remarkable new genetic discoveries, Tinderbox overturns the conventional wisdom on the origins of this deadly pandemic and the best means to fight it today"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2012.
ISBN: 9781594203275
Characteristics: 421 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Halperin, Daniel


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Aug 22, 2012

Very entertainingly written, but I soon noticed something bizarre about this book. It has two authors, yet uses the third person to gush admiringly on the work of a Dr. Halperin. I double-checked the cover to see if that was the same Halperin listed as author. It was! This is NOT disinterested journalism. It is advocacy - an impassioned argument for circumcision, that does not look at contrary evidence (of which there is plenty, but you will not find it here). Dr. Halperin, who is Jewish, was a circumcision advocate before ever going to Africa and latching onto the HIV argument. I was expecting balance, and a critical evaluation of all the evidence. Instead I found faith disguised as science.

May 02, 2012

There is no denying writer Craig Timberg's writing skills and Tinderbox reads like an exciting work of fiction that's chock full of the colourful adventures of our hero Halperin, out to slay AIDS.

Sometimes Halperin is depicted as an ace reporter/ cab driver, waiting outside a San Francisco bathhouse with the meter running, while his HIV wasted customer runs inside to get his rocks off. Elsewhere he's a Jewish Mother Teresa, tenderly caring for AIDS victims.

Many of these stories have the ring of the tall tale, so full of the atmospheric details that only appear in fiction.

Tinderbox also reads like a romance novel but this is no classical love story. The passion here is entirely genitally focused on the circumcision of the African male, something Halperin is extremely enthusiastic about. Every third page waxes euphorically about Halperin's not-so-secret obsession, under the strictly scientific guise, of course, of fighting HIV. When describing a mobile medical team heading out to the Kenyan countryside to provide their circumcision services Sade comes on the radio singing "Smooth Operator."

The old "C" of the ABC's of fighting HIV was "condoms" but that was so last year. The new fashion "C" is circumcision! While our book hero Halperin demures from claiming any excitement, his enthusiasm for male circumcision spills out every few pages.

The three so-called studies that claim a 60% reduction in transmission of AIDS, from women to their circumcised male partners have been soundly questioned by scholars, with the real efficacy rate of circumcision perhaps at just over 1%. Genital cutting to prevent HIV is based on junk science but such pesky details won't keep our hero from his quest.

Perhaps one day we'll see Hollywood re-imagine this story as a comedy starring Adam Sandler as Halperin. In the meantime I'm with those who would prefer a more scholarly approach to dealing with AIDS.

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