Jonny Steinberg

Three-Letter Plague

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At the age of 29, Sizwe Magadia is among the most handsome, well-educated, and richest of the men in his poverty-striken village in rural Transkei. Dr Hermann Reuter, a son of old South West African stock, wants to prove to the world that if you provide decent treatment, people will come and get it, no matter their circumstances. Already, Sizwe has watched several neighbours grow ill and die, yet he remains reluctant to establish his own HIV status. When Hermann establishes an antiretroviral treatment programme in Sizwe's village, these figures from two different worlds collide — one afraid that people will turn their backs on medical care, the other fearful of the advent of a world in which respect for traditional ways has been lost and privacy has been obliterated. The resulting antagonism mirrors a continent-wide battle against an epidemic that has corrupted souls as much as bodies. In this eye-opening, compassionate, searing and beautifully written account, Steinberg seeks to understand the AIDS crisis in South Africa. As he grapples to get closer to answers that remain maddeningly just out of reach, he realises that he must look within to unravel some of the enigma surronding the greatest African disaster of our times.
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423 printed pages
Original publication
2010

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