Helen Epstein (HIV/AIDS journalist)

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Helen Epstein (born 1961) is an American writer, molecular biologist, and independent consultant specializing in public health in developing countries. She has conducted research on reproductive health and AIDS in Africa for such organizations as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Population Council, and Human Rights Watch, and her articles have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Granta Magazine, and many other publications. Her research interests include the right to health care in developing countries and the relationship between poverty and health in industrialized countries.[1]


Epstein received her BA degree in 1984 (Physics, University of California-Berkeley), her PhD in 1991 (Molecular Biology, Cambridge University), and her MSc in 1996 (Public Health in Developing Countries, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).[1] In 1993, she moved to Uganda in search of an AIDS vaccine and taught molecular biology in the medical school at Makerere University in Kampala for a year.

Although Epstein's efforts to find a vaccine failed, she was able to witness firsthand the suffering caused by HIV, which became the subject of her book The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing The Fight Against AIDS in Africa (2007). This autobiographical account discusses 15 years of observing both the epidemic and the reactions to it of Western scientists, humanitarian agencies, and the communities most affected by AIDS deaths. Epstein discusses how the countries that are hardest hit by HIV are not those whose citizens are “promiscuous”, but those where it is common for people to have “long term concurrent” sexual relationships (in which an individual might have more than one long-term partner at one time) with those partners overlapping for months or years.[2]

Epstein has been a visiting research scholar at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University and from 2013-2014 was an Open Society Fellow with the Open Society Foundations.



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