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In Squire and her research assistants interviewed 37 people, 29 women and eight men. Of these, 34 were HIV positive. In she revisited the sites and carried out eight follow-up interviews with people from the original sample. All the interviews were either in English or Xhosa and all interviewed were black South Africans. Only 16 of the interviews were one on one; the rest were in groups of two, three and four. Interviewees were paid a fee for their participation and were given refreshments.
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These points do not de-legitimise the research. However the research is entirely qualitative and the numbers are small.
Effectively this is the story of HIV positive people living in the township around Cape Town from to A reviewer from the same discipline as Squire could comment on her methodology and interpretation. I can not, so let me rather focus on the value of the work to South Africans engaged in battling the epidemic and seek out policy applications. The book reflects a particular period in the epidemic in South Africa.
In we saw the huge denial around the epidemic with Mbeki's appointment of a Presidential Panel to investigate the epidemic. However in the Western Cape, where this book is located, the provincial government had launched a programme for prevention of mother to child transmission PMTCT. In late Medicins sans Frontiers launched a pilot treatment project providing anti-retroviral therapy ART in one of the townships outside Cape Town.
It should be noted that the Western Cape was ahead of all the other provinces, and frequently was working against the wishes, if not express decisions, of the national government. If there were to be a second edition of the book then Squire might consider putting a time line to locate local events in a national context. The stories of the people of the Western Cape resound with our experiences in other parts of the country.
For example Squire's third chapter is "Talking about the big thing". It would be useful to know quite how unique this is in relation to other diseases. In general the book does a credible job of exploring the major issues and adds to the literature.
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