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When it comes to statistics, particularly medical statistics, most of us casually absorb what we read in the press with barely a moment's thought as to how the figures in question were arrived at. If we should read, for example, of a rise or fall in the rate of HIV infection among transgender sex workers in Jakarta, how many of us would pause to consider that behind those percentages are teams of dedicated field workers taking anal swabs night after night in red- light districts or battling with the difficulties of getting a cooler full of frozen blood samples past a police roadblock before the night's work defrosts not to mention the difficulty of persuading clubbers or prostitutes to let them take the samples in the first place?

For the past decade, epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani has been one of the experts 'on the ground' behind the statistics on HIV and Aids offered not just to newspapers but to governments and international organisations with responsibility for prevention and treatment programmes upon which millions of lives depend.

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A former news journalist with a degree in classical Chinese and a PhD in infectious-disease epidemiology, Pisani believed that when it came to epidemiology, good science was not enough - it had to be translated into good public health policy if it was to have any value. Pisani writes with candour and humour, both essential given the general squeamishness with regard to the subjects she has to discuss. HIV is spread predominantly by anal sex, drug injection with dirty needles and sex with multiple partners where there is also a high level of other sexually transmitted infections, i.

In most countries outside east and southern Africa, Aids is not ravaging the general population as was once feared. Yet politicians the world over know there are few votes in spending taxpayers' money to provide expensive health care services for gay men, illegal drug users and sex workers, particularly if such services can easily look as if they are encouraging and facilitating behaviour the moral majority tends to disapprove of anyway.

So figures and trends must be 'beat up' - cannily interpreted and presented in such a way as to imply that we could all be at risk. Elizabeth Pisani has lived in Indonesia at various times over the past twenty-five years, originally as a journalist and later as an HIV epidemiologist. Customer Reviews Average Review. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Textbooks. Add to Wishlist. USD I don't know enough to know whether Pisani is right about what she says, but the portrait of the incentives that push people working in NGOs and in the UN come across as obviously true, and it is these portraits that make the strongest case for the blunt prescriptions she offers.

Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: The wisdom of whores : bureaucrats, brot

Gripes - I'd have appreciated a longer chapter on Africa Pisani focuses on Indonesia where she mainly worked , and the organization is a bit odd a chapter on religion and funding, a chapter on big misconceptions about AIDS, a chapter on drug users, and so on , but that aside it's a great book and I really recommend it. It's been a while since I finished it, or I'd give it a more thorough review. Really good, surprisingly gripping read. This is the first book on the subject, so for all I know she could be way off base, but it comes across as a well-researched and interesting book on a controversial topic.

Picaresque popular science - who knew that such a genre even existed? This is a fascinating read, roughly chronological as Pisani's career spans the decades. She's obviously outgoing and warm in personality despite her claims to numbers nerdery. She genuinely likes all the unlikely people that she listens to and learns from. A no-nonsense type, Pisani will challenge any popular or political wisdom when it doesn't line up with the facts.


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  6. Which it often doesn't, even today. Sadly, the USA is the main obstructionist, chaining their aid money to ineffective programs that refuse to acknowledge the use of needle exchanges and condoms, and even pressure their scientists to lie about them.

    The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS (Paperback)

    Reality is not the religious right's forte, whether it's the Vatican or the US fundies spreading dangerous lies about condoms. But it's not just religious problems.

    The prevention models developed in first world gay communities are widely seen as best practice, but they don't translate so well to 3rd world drug users and prostitutes. The importance of understanding local custom is emphasized by the variety of patterns and sources of infection, or even the lack of infection where one is expected to exist, as in East Timor.

    By the end of the book, both me as the reader and Pisani as the author were worn out with the magnitude of the task -- I could merely stop reading to contemplate the scope of the problem, and Pisani quit her job.

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    Engaging, well written and refreshingly blunt, this was an interesting read and worth the time. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason. Due to the high volume of feedback, we are unable to respond to individual comments. Sorry, but we can't respond to individual comments.

    The Wisdom of Whores Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS

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