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Elizabeth Pisani is the director of Ternyata Ltd., a public health consultancy based in London, UK. She is formerly a journalist and currently an epidemiologist best known for her work on HIV/AIDS, in particular for her controversial book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS.
Born in the United States and educated in several European countries (leaving her with fluent French and Spanish, to which she has since added Chinese and Indonesian), she graduated from Oxford University with an MA in classical Chinese in 1986. She then worked in Asia and Europe as a foreign correspondent for Reuters, The Economist and the Asia Times. During that time she covered major political events such as the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the civil war in Aceh, Indonesia, as well as a wide range of business stories.
In the early 1990s, Pisani changed professional course, taking an MSc in Medical Demography the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (she subsequently received her PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the same institution). Since then she has done research and worked as an advisor for the Ministries of Health of China, Indonesia, East Timor and the Philippines, and for organizations such as the UNAIDS, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Bank, and the World Health Organization. Most of her work has focused on HIV, sexually transmitted infections and sexual and drug-taking behaviour, and on building robust disease surveillance systems.
Pisani has written a wide variety of research papers and institutional reports on HIV/AIDS, include the first two editions of the biennial global report on AIDS for the United Nations programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), as well as technical manuals on disease surveillance and advocacy papers.
In 2008 she published The Wisdom of Whores, which argues that a substantial portion of the funding devoted to HIV/AIDS is wasted on ineffective programming, the result of science and good public health policy being trumped by politics, ideology, and "morality." For example, the U.S. spends $65 billion for HIV treatment and prevention in the developing world, but aid recipients, including entire governments, are forbidden from accepting, tolerating or legalizing prostitution, even though organizations of prostitutes are among the most effective ways to educate those most at risk. For prevention, recipients are forbidden from promoting anything but abstinence, even though abstinence has been demonstrated to fail in rigorous scientific studies. These regulations, writes Pisani, were imposed by former AIDS czar Randall L. Tobias, who resigned after his phone number was found in the listing of a Washington escort service.
In December 2009 the TED (conference) announced that she would speak at the February 2010 event. The overall subject of the conference was "What the World Needs Now". Pisani spoke on Thursday February 11 during the fourth session, "Reason".
- Teyata Ltd. Public Health Consultancy. Eliabeth Pisani, Director
- Wisdom of Whores Elizabeth Pisani's blog on AIDS, sexuality, health policy and much else
- Portrait Indonesia Elizabeth Pisani's blog on her travels in Indonesia. Late 2011 / 2012
- Interview in The Guardian, May 13 2008
- Book review in The Observer, May 18, 2008
- Book review in The Economist, May 1, 2008
- AIDS in Asia: Face the Facts: A Comprehensive Analysis of the AIDS Epidemics in Asia. Published by the Mapping the AIDS Pandemic Network, 2004
- UNAIDS official website
- 'More Sex, Less HIV?' video of Elizabeth Pisani discussing a drop in HIV cases in countries which show a rise in premarital sex
- Dutch feature video on Elizabeth Pisani
- Elizabeth Pisani's promotional video for The Wisdom of Whores
- List of TED 2010 speakers
- Elizabeth Pisani's presentation at the TED 2010 conference: "Sex, drugs, and HIV – Let's Get Rational"
- Pisani, E The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS. London: Granta and New York: Norton, 2008
- Pisani, Elizabeth. Chinese Whispers, Granta
- UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic. Geneva: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 1998, 2000
- A Pope who seems fallible
- Elizabeth Pisani's TED talk: "Sex, drugs, and HIV - let's get rational"