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

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  284 ratings  ·  43 reviews
At the age of twenty-nine, Sizwe Magadla is among the most handsome, well-educated, and richest of the men in his poverty-stricken village. Dr. Hermann Reuter, a son of old South West African stock, wants to show the world that if you provide decent treatment, people will come and get it, no matter their circumstances. Sizwe and Hermann live at the epicenter of the greates ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2008)
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Johnny Steinberg traveled around a small 40-mile radius with a black South African in the Eastern Cape, exploring the concept of male shame and trying to explain why black men aren't getting tested for HIV in South Africa. His explaination is, ultimately, deep and brilliant--but definitely hidden in the pages, so you do have to read the entire book to get it. But it's an easy read and a fun read. If you're interested in South Africa, especially South Africa in a post-apartheid age, this is a boo ...more
Steinberg goes to a rural South African village, where electricity is a luxury and TVs and Cars are nearly non-existent, to try to determine what creates the stigma around HIV/AIDS, and why someone would refuse to take anti-retroviral drugs that could potentially save them when they are so readily available. The story follows Hermann Reuter, a white doctor who is determined that everyone will take ARVs so long as the drugs are consistently available in close proximity to the people in need, and ...more
Wow! This book, so far, is very good. It is a non-fiction story following a 29 year old South African trying to make the decision whether or not to get tested for HIV. To an American, it may seem absurd that one would not get tested, although in some ways the social stigma is still there. But in Africa, making this sort of decision is woven with many other fibers, ones most Americans will never experience. Fibers of witchcraft, revenge, financial ruin, myths and false truths.

Very eye opening, an
Jean Grant
Sep 22, 2011 Jean Grant rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of literary non-fiction; medical stuff; interest in Africa
Recommended to Jean by: picked it up at 2nd hand store--great cover
A stunning accomplishment, so subtle. I woke up early to read it. Stayed up late. It's the kind of book which makes me wish I didn't give 5-stars so readily, as so many of them, compared to this book, are only 4s.

Love Steinberg's imaginative use of language, sometimes old-fashioned but the rhythm moves one along.
The book I was most reminded of while reading this book is "Witches, Westerners, and HIV" by Alexander Rodlach. Both are really informative and well-written, and get at the heart of stigma and shame experienced by many people who are either HIV positive or are unwilling to be tested. "Sizwe's Test" deals more with the latter, and differs from Rodlach's book in that instead of detailing the experiences of a whole village or region, Steinberg chooses to present what is, for all intents and purpose ...more
Jonny Steinberg clearly and humanely presents the dilemma facing Siswe, one of thousands of South Africans who face what Westerners regard as the essential HIV test.

Partly in response to the South African government's inaction and dismissal of the pandemic of HIV and AIDS, Medecins Sans Frontiers establishes a program to educate villagers about HIV and to disseminate ARVs. Testing seems an obvious choice to Jonny and Dr. Hermann Reuter (of MSF): If Sizwe takes the test and has positive results,
Jul 26, 2008 Hamad rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Public health, anthropology people
Although this is a quick and easy read, I still found myself nodding off to sleep every time I opened it. Apart from its sleep-inducing qualities, it is quite interesting from a health-behavior seeking perspective. In South Africa, the book is known as 'The Three-Letter Plague', which I like better as a title.

According to Alena, the summary:

Whine, whine, whine...I'm not getting an HIV test...whine, whine, whine...Should I get tested...whine, whine, whine...what would people say?...whine, whine,
This was a well researched story examining the reasons people do or do not decide to test for HIV and/or start HIV treatment through the eyes of Sizwe and a pioneering doctor from MSF (Doctors Without Borders). For me, it was a good reminder of what we're up against in trying to combat the spread of HIV, and a reminder that we need to be singularly focused on addressing the barriers to testing and treatment. Some barriers are are systematic, others are deeply personal and cultural. Finding ways ...more
This is a book about HIV and Africa. It is a book about "black people's secrets" and why people don't get tested or get treatment when they can. When I bought this book, the white South African that sold it to me almost threw it across the counter and said "Enjoy your holiday", but the tone implied that he thought it was inappropriate for me to be reading this. I wanted to say that I wasn't on holiday, I was working, but thought perhaps there are "white people's secrets" around this too.
The author spent a lot of time in the Transkei tracking how people perceived the AIDS epidemic, testing and treatment. This gives a good window into all kinds of pieces of the puzzle. He is respectful and realistic in describing many villagers interpretation of the disease and treatment sometimes in ways that are more magical than scientific.
An insightful and incredible study of the HIV epidemic and the difficulty of applying traditional medical models to both diagnosis and treatment. Spell binding and an absolute must for all persons working with HIV in Africa

Merged review:

this is the most insightful and illuminating book I have read about the cultural antecedents of HIV in So Africa. A MUST read for anyone trying to understand the extent of this epidemic and why it is so bad in southern africa compared to anywhere else. It had the
Quite an incredible book---and I would venture to say, if you're going to read a book about AIDS in South Africa, perhaps start here. Not necessarily an uplifting book, but I think it is important in that it illuminates how cultural, personal and bureaucratic forces affect healthcare treatment not just in South Africa but throughout the world. As I've said before about Jonny Steinberg, he is an adept journalist, always self-conscious about his own positioning yet willing to ask difficult questio ...more
A fascinating look at the South African HIV epidemic, concentrating on one village and one man. Sizwe refuses to be tested, although as the book progresses he does persuade other family/friends to test and follow treatment.
Much of the book is about the author trying to understand Sizwe and his reasoning, but it's also about the MSF programme bringing ARVs to this remote region; the stigma of HIV versus the reality of successful treatment; tradition versus modern life and the struggling health s
This book was a really in-depth, personalized look at the complicated decision making process around HIV testing in South Africa. It highlights the shortcomings of the health care infrastructure, while also allowing the reader to better understand the inter and intrapersonal dynamics of testing. It was a great read and I would recommend it for anyone interested in the AIDS Epidemic or delivery of global health care.
In this book, a South African writer attempts to understand the impact of an ARV program in a small village in his country. He insightfully describes systemic barriers to care and treatment for HIV as well as stigma and social issues surrounding the disease. The main character, Sizwe, becomes a sort of case study for the successes and challenges of the treatment program and the availability of drugs.
Michele Bové
SIZWE'S TEST is a beautifully written, articulate book that deserves a significant audience. Steinberg has done a remarkable job; what often feels like overdone subject of which there is little else to say or write about is here made anew with a startling personal look at a global epidemic that compels you revaluate what you know about HIV/AIDS in Africa. It's narrative nonfiction at its very best.
An interesting take on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa from the perspective of one man and, through him, his community told by a journalist. Is a good reads as it humanizes many aspects of the epidemic, but falls short of being great due to what feels like the author's confusion as to why he decided to tell this young man's story in the first place.
I thought is was a very informative look at the HIV epidemic in southern Africa. I am heading there this summer to work in Lesotho and this book gave me insight into the aspects of the culture and the mindset that has added to the epidemic. It was an easy read and I would recommend it to anyone who is curious to understand more deeply the issue.
Annie Holmes
I think it's called Sizwe's Test in the U.S. 100% recommended. As remarkable for the writing and thinking as for the subject - or, rather, the subjects: HIV/AIDS, culture and tradition, South Africa, race, gender, heath systems, how to write creative non-fiction. I couldn't stop reading, finished it on two consecutive flights.
May 24, 2008 Mary rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mary by: Seattle Time's review
This was a slow read. I liked it, but the author wandered a little in his account--moving from a history of public health and AIDS in South Africa to the story of the young South African storekeeper, Sizwe. I know why, but it made it a book I kept putting down and picking up something more entertaining.
Aug 04, 2009 Angela rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Angela by: Alyssa
An insider's look into the stigma, emotions, beliefs, and complex issues surrounding the treatment of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Although the book was writen by a while journalist, it was very honest and intimate. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in health care abroad or global HIV issues.
I found this book about HIV/AIDS treatment programs in rural South Africa to be very interesting. It focuses on the psychology of patients who refuse treatments that will save their lives, and in doing so provides a thought provoking, earnest look at one of our worlds great tragedies.
This book add a whole new level to understanding why the AIDS crisis is as bad as it is in South Africa. Surprise, it's not just about under-education and health care access. I highly recommend this book to others as it reads like a novel, but it a non-fiction work.
Interesting read on the education of rural (sic black) South Africans on AIDS, testing, and the antivirals. People are resistant to testing for fear of stigmatization. The author himself is white, gay and South African.
an interesting look at the Aids pandemic in South Africa. Also how characters in the book view the illness: crazy notions and ideas from our 'educated' perspective but that they may view as the gospel 'truth'.
Sharon W.
I did not like the authors style of writing, but the book is helpful for those who wish to know why the AIDS pandemic isn't being stopped in many African countries, as well as specific behaviors in South Africa
Excellent book that explores the spread of HIV in South Africa and the relationships between traditional and modern beliefs about sickness and healing. The narrative is richly detailed and the characters unforgettable.
I read this a few years ago. An amazing insight into the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a country close to my heart. Written in a beautiful way, making it read at times more like fiction (a compliment to the author!).
for the first 200+ pages i thought it was gonna be a 5, but then he starts to babble a bit. Really amazing window into another world, though, and i definitely recommend it!
Mar 24, 2009 Alyssa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: social workers, AIDS advocates
Recommended to Alyssa by: Uncle Chris
Excellent inside look at why the AIDS crisis exists in South America through the eyes of an ordinary citizen. Bravo Mr. Steinberg! Thanks for giving me a lot to think about!!
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