Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

AIDS Between Science and Politics

AIDS Between Science and Politics coverThe School’s Director, Prof Peter Piot charts the social, political and human history of the AIDS epidemic in his newly released book, AIDS Between Science and Politics, which also looks at the ongoing challenges in tackling the disease.

Prof Piot, who was the founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), recounts his experience as a clinician, scientist, and activist tackling the disease from its onset in the early 1980s to today. The AIDS pandemic was not only disruptive to the health of millions worldwide, but also fractured international relations, global access to new technologies, and public health policies in nations across the globe. As he struggled to get ahead of the disease, Prof Piot found science does little good when it operates independently of politics and economics, and politics is worthless if it rejects scientific evidence and respect for human rights.

In the book, Prof Piot describes how the epidemic altered global attitudes toward sexuality, the character of the doctor-patient relationship, the influence of civil society in international relations, and traditional partisan divides. AIDS thrust health into national and international politics where, he argues, it rightly belongs. The global reaction to AIDS over the past decade is the positive result of this partnership, showing what can be acheved when science, politics, and policy converge on the ground. Yet it remains a fragile achievement, and Prof Piot warns against complacency and the consequences of reduced investments. He refuses to accept a world in which high levels of HIV infection are the norm. Instead, he explains how to continue to reduce the incidence of the disease to minute levels through both prevention and treatment, until a vaccine is discovered.

Mark Wainberg, Director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, describes the book as “superb, well-crafted, and timely. The book is an excellent and valuable addition to the scientific literature. And who is better placed to address the multitude of issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS than Peter Piot?”

The book is published by Columbia University Press. The translation from the French version is by Laurence Garey, an anatomist, former member the Court of Examiners, Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the Council of the Anatomical Society.

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Image: Cover for AIDS Between Science and Politics from Columbia University Press

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