- HIV/AIDS in South Africa
A second edition of the comprehensive handbook on HIV/AIDS in South Africa compiled by SS and Q Karim and published in 2005, is both timely and welcome. Some of the original contributors have updated their assessments of the major features and likely impact of the epidemic, and a number of the more recent researchers working in the HIV/AIDS field have joined them to make this not only a comprehensive overview, but one that indicates clearly the pressing HIV/AIDS issues that will require the attention of both health professionals and all concerned South Africans in the coming decade. What sets this volume apart from the usual ‘handbook’ is that, interspersed with the highly competent factual chapters, are a number of thoughtful essays of a more philosophical and intellectually challenging nature. These interrogate issues within our society that the AIDS epidemic has either spawned, or served to deepen. The editors are to be congratulated on this heady mix, which may well pioneer an entirely new level of both moral and political debate around HIV and AIDS in this country. In this review I draw attention to some of the contributions that will be of particular interest to readers from the Social Sciences and Humanities.
By and large the chapters in this collection will be accessible to a wide readership, and, in particular, to those who are neither medical professionals nor academics, but who feel the need to keep up to date with the impact of the epidemic on the country and with current prevention options and treatment regimes. Among these may well be people either living with HIV [End Page 159] or AIDS themselves, or those who are encountering HIV/AIDS among family or friends for the first time. For the latter, in particular, the approach and tone adopted by the contributing authors, together with the key references, which may be consulted for further information, is informative and non-alarmist in tone, but also satisfactorily detailed and thought provoking. For the parents of young children and teenagers the complex issues surrounding protection against HIV infection for the youth, and the available protective options, are clearly set out, described and assessed. Infection figures and trends are dealt with lucidly and the demographic and sociological background treated systematically and clearly. The influence of gender on infection is spelled out and so-called cultural and personal issues militating against HIV protection interrogated. In many of the chapters the major arguments are supported by vivid case material which not only illustrates the substantive and theoretical issues raised, but will also assist readers to identify parallels from their own experience.
As in the case of the first edition, this volume will be useful to employers regardless of the size or nature of their workforce and it is recommended that public libraries have multiple copies available, for both reference and loan. With one or two exceptions the chapters are short enough to be read in a library, and most chapters will be accessible to students in further and higher educational institutions. Non South Africans, and particularly those planning research in, or extended visits to, the country and those considering immigrating to South Africa, can do no better than consult this highly manageable review of the current state and likely trajectory of the South African Aids epidemic in the immediate to middle term. Finally a number of the chapters in the collection recap something of the past history of the South African AIDS epidemic and Mark Heywood has contributed a useful chapter reviewing the tragic impact of the ‘denialist’ position on HIV and AIDS taken by the previous government’s leadership. In terms of the future, the editors’ final chapter is a well-considered and sobering summary of the likely trends in the most critical aspects of prevention, treatment and care. The chapter written by Salim Abdool Karim with Cheryl Baxter discussing in more detail possible new prevention measures against HIV infection is particularly welcome. At the macro level, economist Alan Whiteside provides a thoughtful...