The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS
Elizabeth Pisani, 2008
This is a book that has been on my stack of reading for two years. It came highly recommended, and I have no idea why it took so long to get to it — but there was always something that seemed more compelling. I was wrong.
Elizabeth Pisani is no blushing violet, and there is no effort on her part to shield the harsh realities of her experience from the reader. If you want to understand the reality of AIDS, this is the book to read. There is a common misperception in the Western world that the AIDS epidemic has been controlled and that the risks have been neutralized — this book will disabuse any reader of those perceptions.
Pisani was in the center of the storm when AIDS became politicized — as half-truths were being spread in an effort to accumulate political capital — and as political interests began to overshadow the efforts of the epidemiologists. Politically, this disease was an orphan, but after successful lobbying (and much misinformation disseminated) by those in the know, AIDS became a cause célèbre. The business of AIDS became a dependable source of steady income to NGO’s who – shock — had little interest in killing their golden goose.
Ms. Pisani makes no apologies for her early role in lobbying, and very openly rationalizes her motivations. It is her later role that makes her story a fascinating read — and for that, you need to buy the book. The Wisdom of Whores is a compelling read on many levels, not the least of which is an expose of the problems AIDS still presents — without any spin about who is at risk.