Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, called Stephanie Nolen'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).
Buy itfor everyone on your Christmas list.