Tinderbox: A Tale of World Travel and HIV

Jen Wilson Lloyd, Guest Contributor

How did a lone primate hunter in Cameroon spark the global AIDS epidemic? Tinderbox presents a fascinating history of colonialism and disease.

Using new scientific evidence to trace the history of HIV, journalist Craig Timberg and HIV/AIDS researcher Daniel Halperin tell an unsettling yet enormously compelling story of disease and world travel. Over the course of the last 100 years, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus emerged in Cameroon, made its way through colonial trade routes to Haiti, and eventually arrived in the United States -- which is where HIV was discovered in the early 1980s. But the book doesn't end there. The virus continues its journey despite a number of global efforts intended to curb rates of infection in the places HIV is most widespread, such as the Caribbean.

Tinderbox stresses the importance of local leadership when developing strategies to decrease the number of people infected with HIV. Authors Timberg and Halperin point to a number of failed campaigns led by wealthy and well-meaning heath promoters who were unfamiliar with a country's cultural context. This is juxtaposed by the successes gained by local groups and individuals, such as beloved musicians who spoke out about the disease.

Aware that the solutions are not always simple or clear, the authors of Tinderbox use their professional clout and expertise to push for a more comprehensive movement to end HIV that combines cultural leaders educating their fellow citizens with the support of the global community.

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