Review: AIDS in America by Susan Hunter

AIDS in America - Susan Hunter, Alan Cumming

This book was published in 2006, which made me want an updated or new book to see the HIV/AIDS crisis through President Obama's administration. As it was written, the book details how the end of the Clinton administration and most of the Bush II administration failed this country. There is no sugar coating that we are in the midst of a crisis that rivals what the epidemic looked like in the early and mid 1980s.

 

Before reading this book, I thought the HIV/AIDS epidemic was largely contained and was in the neutral category of chronic but livable. I was in elementary school when Ryan White school scandal happened and remembered the talk in pop culture and in schools about condom use and knowing your status. I thought everyone was taught this and knew how to protect themselves.

 

I graduated high school in 1998, the year that abstinence-only education came to schools. The book starts with a look at a Montana family struggling with a family member's new diagnosis - at the time, Paige was just 18 and already a mother when she tried to join the Navy and found out through a physical examination she was positive. Paige was a student during the abstinence-only sex education, was an experienced drug user (crystal meth) and came from a dysfunctional family. Her new diagnosis made her and the family wake up to the destructive paths each were on, with varying degrees of success. But the factors that led to Paige's infection are the cornerstones of the various chapters, along with the US prison systems, sex work industry, big Pharma, and race/poverty/gender factors. Tom was a 21 year old gay man who was infected by an partner in a random hook-up and was also the by-product of the abstinence-only education and the Internet dating scene.

 

The only problem I had was Ms. Hunter bringing up the fact that the two fastest growing populations being infected is teens and seniors, but focuses all attention on teens and doesn't devote a chapter to why seniors are being diagnosed in such big numbers. I also felt that the chapter on drug use was a little too long and didn't make enough connections to the epidemic. I took away one star from the rating.

 

The US is going backwards while other highly developed countries are progressing on the HIV/AIDS epidemic; there were examples of still developing nations that were ahead of the US (Brazil and Botswana). We are in a sad shape and must return to the processes and methods used in the late 80s and early 90s to stem the tide; we also need to look at certain industries - the private prisons, Big Pharma, and the sex industry - and regulate the shit of them. Finally, we need to treat drug addiction as a medical public health issue and not a law enforcement issue. 4 out of 5 stars.