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28: Stories of AIDS in Africa [Paperback]

Stephanie Nolen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 15 2008
From one of our most widely read, award-winning journalists – comes the powerful, unputdownable story of the very human cost of a global pandemic of staggering scope and scale. It is essential reading for our times.

In 28, Stephanie Nolen, the Globe and Mail’s Africa Bureau Chief, puts a human face to the crisis created by HIV-AIDS in Africa. She has achieved, in this amazing book, something extraordinary: she writes with a power, understanding and simplicity that makes us listen, makes us understand and care. Through riveting anecdotal stories – one for each of the million people living with HIV-AIDS in Africa – Nolen explores the effects of an epidemic that well exceeds the Black Plague in magnitude. It is a calamity that is unfolding just a 747-flight away, and one that will take the lives of these 28 million without the help of massive, immediate intervention on an unprecedented scale. 28 is a timely, transformative, thoroughly accessible book that shows us definitively why we continue to ignore the growth of HIV-AIDS in Africa only at our peril and at an intolerable moral cost.

28’s stories are much more than a record of the suffering and loss in 28 emblematic lives. Here we meet women and men fighting vigorously on the frontlines of disease: Tigist Haile Michael, a smart, shy 14-year-old Ethiopian orphan fending for herself and her baby brother on the slum streets of Addis Ababa; Alice Kadzanja, an HIV-positive nurse in Malawi, where one in six adults has the virus, and where the average adult’s life expectancy is 36; and Zackie Achmat, the hero of South Africa’s politically fragmented battle against HIV-AIDS.

28 also tells us how the virus works, spreads and, ultimately, kills. It explains the connection of HIV-AIDS to conflict, famine and the collapse of states; shows us how easily treatment works for those lucky enough to get it and details the struggles of those who fight to stay alive with little support. It makes vivid the strong, desperate people doing all they can, and maintaining courage, dignity and hope against insurmountable odds. It is – in its humanity, beauty and sorrow – a call to action for all who read it.

From the Hardcover edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. According to UNAIDS, the number of HIV-infected people in Africa is 28 million. But Nolen, veteran Toronto Globe & Mail Africa bureau chief, doesn't believe it: after nine years of reporting on the epidemic, she thinks that number is conservative. Here she offers 28 searing portraits of Africans affected by the deadly virus. Scattered across the continent from the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, to the bush in southern Zambia, these Africans present a mosaic of a continent in crisis and a collective cry for help. She examines the role of soldiers, a "key vector" for AIDS, through the tale of Andualam Ayalew, a commando who was kicked out of the Ethiopian army after testing positive for HIV. He learned of AIDS prevention at a clinic and, risking arrest, returned to his unit to teach his former comrades and other soldiers about using condoms. Agnes Munyiva, a prostitute for 30 years, who has had contact with thousands of men in a slum outside Nairobi, Kenya, does not have HIV. Her natural immunity has brought doctors and researchers from as far away as Canada to study her.With a seasoned journalist's finesse, Nolen effortlessly weaves technical information—health statistics, disease data, NGO reports—into these deeply intimate glimpses of people often overlooked in the flood of contemporary media. Nolen's book packs a real emotional wallop. Photos, map. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Nolen puts a very human face on HIV/AIDS in Africa, verbally and visually. A photograph accompanies each of the book's 28 personal histories (one subject stands for one million infected people in sub-Saharan Africa). The faces in the photos appear no different than faces of everyday Americans, but that appearance belies the horrific reality of lives shredded by devastating disease. The stories, ranging from those of orphaned children on their own, struggling to keep from being raped by adult neighbors, to that of an HIV-positive beauty queen, couldn't be more illustrative of the dissimilarity of Africa to North America. To cite one example, there is 12-year-old Lefa Khoele, stuck in grade 3 because every year he has been too sick to take end-of-year exams. His is a common situation for infected African children. Nolen sees beneath the surfaces of these individuals, estranged and all but destroyed by governmental ineptitude and denial, and evinces their loves and hopes and family ties, their humanness, with which all others can identify. Chavez, Donna
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Nolen tells stories that stop you from totally giving up on humanity - from the tireless doctors who treat Aids patients to the campaigners who refuse to buy their own medication until it is freely available to all.

In Bukavu, South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Christine Amisi, for example, left the safety of a UN compound to continue her work as a nurse for Doctors without Borders to ensure that her patients got supplies of drugs. Christine assisted in Doctors without Borders' anti-retroviral trials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country torn apart by civil war.

Nolen points out that there is a very real risk of creating drug-resistant strains of HIV should patients not exercise compliance in treatment; this is one of the challenges often cited in treating AIDS in unstable countries like the Congo. And yet, what did Doctors without Borders find? Patients had, in the long term, a 97 per cent adherence rate--taking their pills correctly and on time -- which is higher than the rate at most treatment sites in North America. Only 5 per cent of them had been "lost to follow-up," that is, stopped showing up and became untraceable -- again, a number about on par with North America, and remarkable for war zone.

In Bukavu, South Kivu, Doctors without Borders provides comprehensive HIV/AIDS care with counselling, testing and treatment of opportunistic infections, as well as antiretroviral treatment (ART). Doctors without Borders has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1981. Dr James Orbinski, who was president of Doctors without Borders when the organisation was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, says of Nolen's book: "Read. Weep. Rage. And above all else - like those people described in this book - find the courage to do."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know about AIDS in Africa May 14 2008
Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, called Stephanie Nole's 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, "the best book ever written about AIDS". I must admit that I was skeptical- how could a relatively short book of stories encapsulate this massive epidemic? By the time I'd finished the third of 28 stories, I'd changed my mind.

Nolen successfully uses 28 human experiences of HIV/AIDS, gathered over years of reporting on the issue, to tackle each aspect of the pandemic: orphans, access to treatment, medical research, AIDS in conflict zones and within the military, at-risk groups such as truck drivers and sex workers, African political and international humanitarian approaches to HIV, experiences of children, women, elites, couples, families, activists, and the poorest of the poor. Her approach left me more knowledgable, and intermittently heartbroken and ready for action. The book critically examines the role of each actor in the pandemic, from international to local in the present and since the first recorded infection. It emphasizes the complexity of the crisis, most importantly its intrinsic links to poverty, as well as including a vital section on how you can help.

Effectively, Nolen has written a book that provides an overview of the political, historical, cultural, and economic realities of HIV/AIDS in Africa while constantly drawing the reader back to one fundemental point: HIV/AIDS is first and foremost a human issue. She quotes Nelson Mandela (he is the main character in the 27th story), "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice" (353).

As someone recently embedded in the fight against HIV/AIDS (I am currently writing my undergraduate thesis on prevention programs, and have just returned from 10 months working with two grassroots HIV/AIDS organizations in Ethiopia), I would recommend this to laypeople and experts alike!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I don't think I comprehend..." Jan. 12 2008
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Graça Machel, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela and, with him, long time activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS, said: "... we can't fill all the spaces that are left." Five and a half thousand people die in Africa every day of AIDS and related diseases, with an estimated 28 million people infected by the HIV virus. These figures are too overwhelming to comprehend and Stephanie Nolen's book opens an evocative window for us into the struggle, the suffering and the hope of ordinary Africans through 28 portraits. From her diverse and multi-year experience and research into the pandemic in a number of sub-Saharan Africa countries, she focuses on the individuals, their families and their circumstances, resulting in an intimate, sometimes heart wrenching, sometimes uplifting, yet always deeply moving and inspiring account of what HIV/AIDS has done and continues to do to Africans: to individuals, relations, communities and countries.

Each chapter starts with a photograph of the primary individual as she or he reveals the tragedy of their lives. Some of them Nolen met only a couple of times, others have become close friends. Her ability to convey their stories vividly and with great empathy brings us as reader not only close to the unique aspects of each "case", but assists our better appreciation of cultural and political traditions and realities in African societies. The critical components of the HIV/AIDS crisis unique to African countries are addressed within the narrative without losing the personal and emotional primacy of the subject matter.

For close to ten years, Nolen, a Canadian journalist for the Globe & Mail, based in South Africa, has been following the HIV/AIDS crisis all over the continent.
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