At the end of a steep gravel road in one of the remotest corners of South Africa's Eastern Cape lies the village of Ithanga. Home to a few hundred villagers, the majority of them unemployed, it is inconceivably poor. It is to here that award-winning author Jonny Steinberg travels to explore the lives of a community caught up in a battle to survive the ravages of the greatest plague of our times, the African AIDS epidemic.
He befriends Sizwe, a young local man who refuses to be tested for AIDS despite the existence of a well-run testing and anti-retroviral programme. It is Sizwe's deep ambivalence, rooted in his deep sense of the cultural divide, that becomes the key to understanding the dynamics that thread their way through a terrified community.
As Steinberg grapples to get closer to finding answers that remain just out of reach, he realizes that he must look within himself to unlock the paradoxes at the heart of his country.
This forceful narrative, with sharp insights and value...has to do with the immense power of stigma, the ways in which we mirror the real or imagined condemnation of others, and of how easily stigma becomes entwined with sexuality
Writing with tenderness and authority, Steinberg skilfully manoeuvres past the prejudice that so often muddles analysis of HIV/AIDS to capture the essence of the pandemic and how it threatens not just lives in South Africa but the future of an entire nation
With his distinctive clarity of vision, Jonny Steinberg mines down into another of contemporary South Africa's fault lines and manages to pull off a remarkable literary feat - how to make AIDS engaging to a largely fatigued world
A compelling account... jaw-dropping and unforgettable
Sex and death are hard to talk about, but Jonny Steinberg has a gift for coaxing people to open up. If you want to know why AIDS is devastating southern Africa, you have to read this book. It is a brilliant exploration of the secret, intimate decisions that turn an epidemic into a catastrophe