28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

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Knopf Canada, Oct 22, 2010 - Political Science - 416 pages
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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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I have a secret...
...I am not really a great non-fiction reader.
Yes, I will occasionally grudgingly slog through something for the sake of having all the facts on an issue and something to say or
because sometimes such sacrifices are required, but never with pleasure or quickly.
It came as a surprise then when, whilst volunteering in Africa, upon picking up this book which I had been told I really must read, I found a book that is both hauntingly, starkly factual and utterly beautiful, I read it in 2 sittings. There is absolutely nothing dry about this book and yet also nothing coarsely or rashly overstated, it is a stunning look at the effect of this awful disease on the population from the standpoint of the individual.
I Cried. Utterly unputdownable and unforgettable.

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About the author (2010)

Stephanie Nolen is the Globe and Mail’s Africa Bureau Chief. She is the winner of the National Newspaper Award, the Amnesty International Award for Human Rights Reporting and the Markwell Award of the International Society of Political Psychology. She is also the author of Shakespeare’s Face and Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

From the Hardcover edition.

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