Sizwe's Test: A Young Man's Journey Through Africa's AIDS Epidemic

Jonny Steinberg, Author
Jonny Steinberg, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (349p) ISBN 978-1-4165-5269-7
Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4165-6654-0
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-4165-5270-3
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Award-winning South African journalist Steinberg, a gay white man, conceived this book to understand the AIDS crisis in his country and, to a limited degree, in himself: though HIV testing and treatment are readily accessible, he wondered, why did so many abstain? Steinberg journeys to the poor black village of Ithanga, where antiretrovirals (ARVs) are available, but electricity and running water are not. He examines the disease through the pseudonymous Sizwe Magadla, a 30-year-old shopkeeper who has resisted testing. Sizwe becomes Steinberg's interpreter and explains the village's traditional health-care system in which witchcraft thrives and Western medical missionaries challenge healers and herbalists. Steinberg traces Sizwe's growing awareness of the myths and realities of “the three letters”—one persistent belief, that whites created and deployed HIV as a means to regain power, echoes the legacy of apartheid still overshadowing the country—and his attempts to reconcile cultural beliefs with increasingly unassailable medical facts. Steinberg becomes intertwined with his subject, but balances critical distance and compassion with gleanings from his own psychological barriers to HIV testing that further deepen the concern and understanding he accords to Sizwe's story. (Feb.)

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