Sizwe’s test by Jonny Steinberg

Sizwe’s Test talks about AIDS and AIDS treatment in Africa through the eyes of an apparently healthy, successful (very) small businessman who guides the author through South Africa’s patchy and overwhelmed medical infrastructure, assisted by Medecin Sans Frontieres without which there would not be much of a program at all, at least in the area under consideration.

If you ever wondered about medical care in poor countries, you will get a sobering look at how simple infrastructure problems such as bad roads and power cuts can easily wreck programs that must handle prodigious patient loads (the village seems to have a 20% infection rate!) and battle persistent myths of AIDS being caused by bewitching or by the tests themselves.

Throughout the book, the author wonders whether Sizwe will get tested (and urges him to do so.) I could not help but wonder why. Sizwe is healthy and his girlfriend, who is pregnant, did get tested and tested negative, so why should he get tested? If he were white and lived elsewhere, would he get badgered in that way?

Despite this flaw, a very informative account of the challenges of third-world health care.

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