In the late 1990s, more than 30 percent of young adults in Botswana were infected with HIV. In the early 2000s, every Saturday was reserved for funerals. Subsequently, medication became available and far fewer people died, but high HIV infection rates persisted. Saturday Is for Funerals tells the stories and the science of the HIV epidemic in Botswana. Unity Dow, at the time a High Court judge in Botswana, opens each chapter with a story from someone affected by the HIV crisis. Max Essex, a pioneer in HIV research both globally and specifically in Botswana, ends each chapter with the research related to the phenomenon from Dow’s story. Together, they paint a powerful picture of Botswana both before and after AIDS drugs were available.
Essex’s writing is strongest when focused on medical rather than social aspects, and most of his sections do that. (There some repetition in Essex’s sections as well, but it’s not a fatal flaw.) The final chapter demonstrates the power of political leadership in changing the course of the epidemic in Botswana.
This is both valuable in helping readers to understand the dynamics of a society with staggering rates of HIV and as a largely successful model of how to mesh anecdotes and scientific research to give a fuller picture of a phenomenon.
Here is what other critics had to say:
Publishers Weekly: “Although occasionally repetitive, this richly informative book dispels much of the mystery still surrounding HIV/AIDS, revealing how life goes on for those infected. Readers overwhelmed by (and even numbed to) the images of desolation that accompany coverage of the epidemic will find a realistic but optimistic assessment of a society successfully tackling the problem and a model for other afflicted nations.”
Jennifer Rosenbush, Africana: “While much of the content in this book has cross-cultural resonance, Saturday is for Funerals is truly a story of Botswana and its people. Perhaps most importantly, this book depicts a success in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It presents more than glimmer of hope in an area of the world that is often depicted as hopeless. This valuable addition to the literature is accessible to lay people would be of great value to students in a range of disciplines.”