In the formidable The Invisible Cure, Helen Epstein chronicles our failure to do the right things to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eastern and Southern Africa - impeded as we are by too much ideology and too much political correctness. It's not spoiling the ending to tell you that the cure in the title refers to cutting down on concurrent sexual partnerships.
In the equally formidable The Wisdom of Whores, Elizabeth Pisani.Pisani chronicles our failure to do the right things to curb the epidemic in S.E. Asia - impeded as we are by too much ideology and too much money. Here is Pisani talking at TED:
Having just read these two back to back, their similarities are stark. The message in both is - follow the data, not the ideology. But they do discuss two very different epidemics - in S.E. Asia HIV is concentrated in high risk groups with little danger that the epidemic will explode in the general population. Politcal squeamishness and voter disapproval of directly addressing injection drug use and risky sex has led to health messages which largely miss the point.
Conversely, in Southern Africa, Epstein laments the focus that has been placed on high risk groups despite the vast majority of new infections being transmitted through heterosexual sex within long-term relationships, meaning not only that the health messages miss their target, but they also add to shame and stigma, which further aids transmission. One irritating thing about the Invisible Cure is Epstein's frequent talk of 'Africa', I'm sure she knows it's a big continent and that lots of it has about as much HIV as Switzerland. To quote Hans Rosling; 'we have to stop talking about Africa as if it's one place, it's not very respectful and it's not very clever'.
Read both if you can. If you can't, then read The Invisible Cure.
Postnote: The Wisdom of Whores is available free of charge as an e-book for the month of December