The Invisible People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic, the Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophe of Our Time

Any writer attempting to tackle the AIDS pandemic faces a demanding task. Now spanning decades and covering the globe, it has claimed a staggering number of lives (more than 40 million people are currently infected with HIV and 8,500 die of AIDS each day). That's more than most of us can grasp. The plague's heroes and villains aren't celebrated or demonized like those in a conventional war. For AIDS, there is no FDR or Hitler; there are just the victims of an inconceivable holocaust. Greg Behrman employs an almost cinematic perspective to address the catastrophe in his fast-moving history, cutting to new locations and characters to capture the epic nature of the global AIDS struggle. A vivid cast of characters populates these pages, ranging from U.S. presidents to activists, physicians, diplomats, and rock stars (U2's Bono emerges as one of the most pragmatic and effective combatants). What's heartbreaking is that, despite the best work of many (and, to a degree, because of the tepid or obstructive efforts of others), the disease remains a mighty foe. Both moral and moderate in tone, Behrman focuses on American anti-AIDS efforts, believing the United States' mighty wealth at the end of the 20th century and its own experiences with the epidemic gave it a unique capability and responsibility to lead the fight the fight in Africa and elswewhere. The American effort, he's forced to conclude, has been "inglorious." --Steven Stolder