The autobiography of a virology pioneer, the natural history of HIV/AIDS, and the story of the effort to combat the disease, all intertwined in an entertaining and enlightening package. The eminent virologist Montagnier, of the equally eminent Pasteur Institute in Paris, explains how he haphazardly found his way into his specialty. A childhood in France marred by the Occupation was followed by increasingly specialized work in medicine and biology. He makes breathtakingly clear the importance of ongoing AIDS research: 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS; in 1998, 5.8 million were newly infected with HIV; 6,000 children are infected each day; the epidemic is spreading especially quickly in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, India, Cambodia, and southern China. Montagnier first looks at "Discovery," how research—and clinical medicine'sometimes proceeds systematically along and sometimes stumbles by chance onto new diseases and treatments. He then details his own work identifying the causes and mechanisms by which HIV effects its damage. Montagnier, ever the gentleman, recounts with a forgiving tone his much-publicized dust-up with Robert Gallo of the National Institutes of Health; the two made key discoveries about the nature and mechanism of HIV virtually simultaneously, leading to difficulties with patents and funding. As he has in the past, Montagnier emerges as the voice of perspective and reason: "I admit that I stand apart from Robert Gallo on many matters. Nevertheless, we shared one important thing . . . the desperate, despairing search for retroviruses linked to human cancers." Montagnier goes on to discuss the natural history of the disease and of the epidemic. He then looks at treatment, covering not just the scientific aspect but, most notably and sympathetically, devoting a chapter specifically to addressing those with the virus. After diagnosis, he understands, "Everyday life must be conceived and organized in another fashion, work and relationships with others reconsidered." Elucidating explanation from the forefront of HIV/AIDS research, always with a strong humanitarian underpinning.
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