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A Fictional Cure For AIDS Relies on Facts in the novel, Through These Veins

A Fictional Cure For AIDS Relies on Facts in the novel, Through These Veins

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In the coffee-growing highlands of Ethiopia, an Italian scientist on a plant collecting expedition discovers a local medicine man dispensing an apparent cure for AIDS.

Fact or fiction?

The specifics of this particular situation are a fiction, the opening of my novel, Through These Veins. But the story that unfurls from this fiction is studded with facts, real scientists, and events mirroring real life situations I encountered during the five years I reported internationally on environmental issues, HIV research, and drug development.

I never set out to write fiction, which seems so contrary to the 'just the facts ma'am' axiom we associate with journalism. What I really wanted to do was shine a light on unreported or underreported environmental stories. The medical reporting I did was not really my passion, as much as a byproduct of my international base in Bangkok, Thailand; a hub for HIV/AIDS research and activism. After a year of telling gloom and doom stories about the destruction of forests, or coral reefs, or traditional agricultural varieties, I feared I was becoming desensitized to my deeply held belief that our collective health is inextricably linked to the health of our environment.

When, in the course of my reporting, I met a charismatic Italian scientist who approached plant collecting and conservation as if it were an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones. I had a shazaam moment. He unknowingly ignited in me an idea for a new approach, a fictional story centered on a character like him. He could carry readers around the world, and inspire in others the passion he felt for the richness of life on the planet. He could articulate the imperative to conserve biodiversity for the health and well being of this and future generations. But I needed more drama to make a compelling narrative.

As I worked on outlining my fictional story, my reporting on drug development and HIV/AIDS revealed itself as not only related, but integral to my story about the importance of biodiversity, and one of its prime values as a source of medicines.

Over the course of a decade spent researching and writing Through These Veins, I was able to marry my different reporting interests and use everything I learned and more, so that facts support my fiction, and hopefully, my fiction will serve the facts.

Through These Veins is available on Amazon as an eBook. All profits will be distributed to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders and the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation in Ethiopia. The print version is expected in June.

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