"A remarkable volume. With rare clarity, Tinderbox lays bare the origins of the AIDS virus, and then reveals the often hapless and delinquent responses of the international community. It's a fascinating read: relentlessly honest, sometimes scathing, alway principled."
—Stephen Lewis, Founder/Director of AIDS-Free World, Former UN Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa
"Remarkable...reads like a detective novel."—The New Yorker
“Gripping … buy the book.”—The Nation
"A strong warning to those who would disregard the cultural specificities of those one is trying to serve."—The New York Times (EDITORS CHOICE)
"Tinderbox will help readers understand...why the period ahead is so critical in fighting the epidemic. Millions of lives depend on the effort."—The Washington Post
“In addition to a useful history of the disease, Timberg and Halperin examine how to confront it and develop more effective ways to fight it…[Timberg and Halpern] present a forceful case with which future students of HIV and AIDS will have to reckon.”—Kirkus (STARRED REVIEW)
“Essential for understanding a relentlessly urgent issue.”—Library Journal
“An essential and engrossing read, Timberg and Halperin’s sweeping work covers AIDS from its origins…to its impact on the world today…Extensively researched, eminently readable and accessible, Timberg and Halperin’s work is a notable and invaluable addition to the AIDS canon.”—Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)
"Tinderbox is an unusually compelling and informative account of how the AIDS epidemic has affected the world, particularly the peoples of Africa. In a compassionate and engaging manner, Timberg and Halperin bring to life the story from its beginnings to the most recent evidence on how to effectively prevent further tragedy."
—Jay Levy, M.D., director, Laboratory for Tumor and AIDS Virus Research, University of California, San Francisco
"Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin have written a searing book about the AIDS epidemic. Tinderbox is an indictment of Western ineptitude and meddling and lost opportunities to prevent millions of infections and deaths. But it also contains valuable prescriptions for making changemdash;and it's an important read for anyone who cares about Africa."
—Stephanie Nolen, author of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa
"Timberg and Halperin have been challenging conventional wisdom (and behavior change skeptics like me) for years. Their book is entertaining, thought-provoking, human, and in the end, hopeful for a continent that craves some answers after two decades of HIV prevention failures."
—Francois Venter, M.D., president, Southern African HIV Clinicians Society
"Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On was the first—and for decades the best—book on AIDS. Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin's Tinderbox is every bit as good, revealing the same denial, the same story of politics trumping science, and the same tragedy. This time, it is about the whole world, not just San Francisco. Read it!"
—Malcolm Potts, M.D., author of The AIDS Reader and Ever Since Adam and Eve
"The sometimes glorious, often tragic constellation of science, politics, and personalities in the fight against AIDS comes to life in the masterful storytelling of an energetic journalist and a passionate scientist."
—Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver
"An excellent read. Tinderbox brilliantly outlines the successes, failures, and missed opportunities in the battle of HIV prevention over the last thirty years."
—Elly Katabira, M.D., president, International AIDS Society
"Remarkable . . . well-written and thoughtful, and sometimes reads like a detective novel. The authors have clearly done important research and have brought together amazing stories, bits of history, and scientific perspectives.”
“An insightful new book from a journalist and an AIDS researcher, tells the story of the epidemic from its birth in colonial Africa . . . to its status today as the object of a global public health war.”
“Careful scientific detective work.”
“An essential and engrossing read, Timberg and Halperin’s sweeping work covers AIDS from its origins . . . to its impact on the world today. . . . Extensively researched, eminently readable and accessible, Timberg and Halperin’s work is a notable and invaluable addition to the AIDS canon.”
This absorbing interdisciplinary study of HIV/AIDS explores how the West inadvertently unleashed the AIDS epidemic and then failed to combat it effectively, especially in the most vulnerable regions in Africa. Drawing on the latest genetic research, Washington Post reporter Timberg and Harvard epidemiologist and medical anthropologist Halperin trace the disease’s origins in the Cameroonian jungle, where HIV’s transmission from chimps to humans coincided with the rapacious period of colonial expansion as the quest for rubber sap and ivory created new transportation networks (porter paths, steamship lines, airstrips, and highways), along which the disease traveled, and a large, hectic colonial city (Leopoldville; now Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Africa’s susceptibility, the authors suggest, was partly due to changing social customs. For example, Christian missionaries discouraged rituals such as male circumcision, now known to significantly reduce the spread of HIV. As the Western powers (namely the U.N. AIDS program and President George W. Bush’s initiative) poured money into combating the spread of AIDS, they favored biomedical approaches (shots, pills, HIV testing, condom promotion) and ignored potentially life-saving African initiatives, such as modifying sexual behavior and male circumcision. Highlighting the politics of AIDS, where there were powerful incentives to work within the conventional wisdom to win lucrative government contracts, this timely exposé advocates practical solutions to a seemingly intractable problem. (Mar.)
Remarkable...well written and thoughtful, and sometimes reads like a detective novel. The authors have clearly done important research and have brought together amazing stories, bits of history, and scientific perspectives.
Journalist Timberg (deputy national security editor & former Johannesburg bureau chief, Washington Post) and epidemiologist and medical anthropologist Halperin (health behavior & health education, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) have written a first-person account of the horrific AIDS epidemic in southern Africa. Their narrative is a compassionate and persuasive argument for new approaches to AIDS prevention. The social and economic legacies of colonialism, they argue, are at the root of southern Africa's uniquely high AIDS infection rates. Christian missionaries and colonial officials discouraged indigenous polygamous and circumcision practices. The hidden heritage of polygamy results in high rates of sex outside of marriage, and areas where circumcision isn't routinely performed have AIDS rates 50 percent higher than areas where it is. Timberg and Halperin argue that dealing frankly but sensitively with these cultural issues is the key to developing workable strategies to lower the rate of new AIDS cases, which remain disturbingly high in spite of the widespread use of life-saving drugs to treat existing infections. VERDICT A compelling account of the ravages of the southern African AIDS epidemic and its heroes, villains, and missed opportunities. General readers, social scientists, and public health experts will find much to ponder.—Kathy Arsenault, St. Petersburg, FL
Timberg, the former Johannesburg bureau chief for the Washington Post and current deputy national security editor, and Halperin, an epidemiologist and AIDS expert at Harvard, trace the history, growth and spread of HIV and present what will in the minds of many be a controversial approach to addressing the disease. Although the subtitle sounds vaguely conspiratorial, the authors crisply chronicle the origins of AIDS from chimpanzees in West Africa and follow the perhaps shockingly slow spread of HIV across the African continent and to the rest of the world. The key factor in the spread of the disease was the expansion of European colonialism in Africa, which took a virus that otherwise may well have died off and instead created the conditions by which, decades later, it would become a scourge in many parts of the world. But European colonial-era malfeasance is not the only issue at work in this book. In addition to a useful history of the disease, Timberg and Halperin examine how to confront it and develop more effective ways to fight it. If Western imperialism is to blame for the initial proliferation of HIV/AIDS, Western arrogance and the unintended consequences of good intentions may well have prevented adequate treatment. While Western health advocates have supported abstinence campaigns and condom use, the authors argue that homegrown initiatives hold more promise than many Westerners have been willing to acknowledge, and that new research on the importance of sexual behavior and male circumcision is central to developing a coherent approach going forward. Timberg and Halperin may ruffle feathers with some of their unorthodox views, but they present a forceful case with which future students of HIV and AIDS will have to reckon.