oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - The Origins of AIDS, Jacques Pepin : book review



I have always wondered why there are not more books that are written in plain language to summarise the amazing research that has examined the emergence and spread of infectious diseases, and the response of the medical and scientific communities thereto. The raw material is available in thousands of publications, in peer-reviewed journals. However, only a minuscule proportion of these research findings have been "translated" into language that is accessible to non-scientists. Often, when they are translated into a more accessible language, the temptation for journalists is to focus on the "headlines", and to over-sensationalise a particular aspect of the research study. The story of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is perhaps an exception, and has been somewhat better documented than any other infectious disease in books and films. In all of these, the "origin" of AIDS remains an intriguing question. As much as scientists argue that the search for the source of AIDS has been a lesser priority than the search for a future cure, there is something obsessively human in our need to understand the beginning of the existence of this relatively new virus, that has caused the largest epidemic in modern times. Although scientists first identified HIV as the cause of AIDS in 1984, we know that the virus spread among people long before that.


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