HIV/AIDS: Fact, fiction and ambiguity
GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 8/31/2012, 11:41 a.m.
A comprehensive and extremely well-researched new book about the HIV/AIDS epidemic will shed light on a disease that has ravaged the world for more than 30 years and impacted the African-American community in record numbers.
"HIV/AIDS: The Facts and the Fiction," by New Hampshire-based writer Chris Jennings, was released earlier this year and provides a detailed, scientific yet intriguing and cogent examination of the fallacies and facts about HIV/AIDS. While the book is written in a mostly scientific-research tone, the author still manages to translate technical and multisyllabic words into an easy-to-read text. For example, when describing medical jaw-breaking jargon such as "Strongyloides stercoralis" or "Toxoplasma gondii," Jennings breaks it down to simple terms: "roundworm" for the former, "parasite" for the latter.
What becomes immediately apparent in the early pages of the book is that the author's extensive research, interviews and scouring of thousands of articles, journals and books has yielded some essential info about HIV/AIDS. First is that New York City is the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. This fact sharply contradicts the popular belief that San Francisco, Los Angeles or even Africa are the places where the virus began and continues to flourish.
Additionally, the author disputes claims that HIV was transmitted from monkeys to humans. He writes, "Unfortunately, a series of interlocking misconceptions have distorted scientific and public perceptions of HIV and the AIDS epidemic. The basic theorem for the origin of AIDS in Africa hypothesis is that HIV was endemic in Africa for 30 or 40 years before ecological and sociological changes forced it out of the jungle."
The author has also released a sister book, "HIV/AIDS in South Africa: The Facts and the Fiction." As the title suggests, the book chronicles the epidemic in Africa.
Jennings, a graduate of Harvard University with a degree in biology, should be commended for writing about an issue that constantly needs to be at the forefront of public discussion. Additionally, the author recently contacted an editor regarding a broadcast about HIV/AIDS on the National Public Radio website that contained inaccurate and ambiguous information about the virus.
The NPR report indicated that "AIDS is the primary killer of African-Americans ages 19 to 44." Jennings noted that based on the most recent data from the National Vital Statistics Reports, June 2012 with stats from 2008, HIV is actually the eighth leading cause of death among African-Americans between 15 to 19 years and sixth among 10- to 24-year-olds and fourth between 25- to 54-year-olds. Jennings added, "Throughout the epidemic, national estimates of people living with HIV/AIDS have always been somewhat hyperbolic."
As of press time, the author had not received a reply from NPR regarding his inquiry. To review or order a copy of the book, visit www.healthalert.net.