Last fall, we were thrilled to publish the first book of our new Critical Global Health series, Second Chances: Surviving Aids in Uganda, edited by Susan Reynolds Whyte. The book was celebrated at a launch in Uganda in February, at Makerere University in Kampala. Four prominent Ugandans discussed the book. All have been and continue to be major players in shaping the response to AIDS in the country.
In their remarks they touched on three themes:
As clinicians, they found that the book gave them understanding of their patients as people.
Peter Mugyenyi, Director, Joint Clinical Research Centre, a leading authority on the treatment of AIDS in Africa:
“As a person who was involved in access to ARV drugs in this country, I found this story very moving. Any health care provider who reads this book, and listens—it is like listening to people talking to you, that’s how well it is written—your practice will never be the same…I looked at this book and I started reflecting on what sort of services we provide to patients. When you read this book your vision of such issues will never quite be the same.
Through the stories that these patients told, I could see you the interviewers. I saw how you felt for the study participants you looked after and followed up. I saw how you got involved, and then in the end you told a moving story.”
Harriet Mayanja, Dean, School of Medicine, and former Head of the Department of Internal Medicine, treating AIDS patients at Mulago, the national referral hospital:
“This book is not only second chances for the people they write about. It is also second chances for us to look at disease and people who are unwell as individual human beings with families, with homes, with worries, with fears as opposed to cases and statistics.”
They appreciated the book as documentation of a dramatic period in Uganda’s history:
Nelson Ssewankambo, Principal, College of Health Sciences, pioneer researcher and author of the first scientific article about Slim Disease in Uganda, 1985.
“As practicing physicians, we were grappling in the dark. What is this thing that is affecting our people? It was very very touching when you met individuals who were agonizing because they were infected or who just thought they were infected. One of the startling comments that kept coming up, especially from young people, was: ‘We are the walking dead.’ Listen to this: ‘We are the walking dead.’ Why did they say that? Because there was no second chance. ARVs were not available. When they started trickling in, only a few could access them. So clearly, no second chance for those individuals, for their families, and the community at large. That history was moving to many of us. … Experience lived and not told is experience lost. We need more books and more books so that generations after us should be able to learn what took place.”
As global health researchers, they saw the value of the book beyond its relevance to AIDS in Uganda:
Edward Kirumira, Principal, College of Social Sciences:
“I’m glad that this is the first book in a series on critical global health. We are not only seeing the presentation of a book on Uganda, but on critical global health. I hope we can use it to interrogate a broader field. It is not just a story, but a framework for understanding lifelong disease experience.”
Other attendees had this to say:
Majbrit Holm Jakobsen, Danish Embassy in Uganda:
“I read this book as a window on Ugandan society today, not just as a book about AIDS.”
Lisa Ann Richey, Professor, Roskilde University and co-author of BrandAid: Shopping Well to Save the World, at the book launch at University of Copenhagen, 27 April 2015:
“The book’s presentation is the “extended case study” method of the Manchester School, but I also thought of the use of “cases” in medical teaching and the link between the social and medical understandings needed to grapple with a phenomenon like HIV/AIDS. Second Chances should be on the curriculum of the medical school, not just the anthropology curriculum.
This book provides a more transparent account of its own relations of knowledge production than is usually found in academic texts.”