No Time to Lose
A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses
by Peter Piot, with Ruth Marchall
W.W. Norton & Company
Reviewed by Alina Oswald
How does one define an epidemic? Scientists use formulas. Patients count the days they’ve stayed alive. Caregivers and medical professionals working in the trenches of the epidemic measure it in lives saved and lost, while trying to grasp its reality. Healthcare insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians look beyond the related despair and death, some for possible solutions, others for profit.
Who can better define an epidemic than someone who has spent a lifetime studying it, understanding it, and trying to save lives? Dr. Peter Piot is someone who has dedicated his life to making a difference in the global AIDS pandemic. No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses is an autobiographical account of Piot’s life in which AIDS is the main character. Piot’s story starts with his years working as a young doctor in African jungles, while studying the Ebola virus, and then his first encounter with HIV. It continues with his work as a scientist, culminating with his role in the global AIDS pandemic as the founder (in 1996) and first executive director (until 2008) of UNAIDS.
Piot calls AIDS exceptional, because it’s global, spares no countries and affects young adult individuals who, if not for AIDS, would not die so early, while bringing out in the spotlight behaviors disapproved by society. He quotes Louis Pasteur, who once said, “Gentlemen, it is the microbes who will have the last word,” and leaves readers pondering if that is still true, even nowadays, in a time defined by unprecedented scientific and technological progress and discoveries.
In No Time to Lose, Piot offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the AIDS pandemic from someone who has fought the fight against AIDS from the very beginning. The read challenges the mind, offering a comprehensive understanding of AIDS as an epidemic in itself, as much as an epidemic among other epidemics. No Time to Lose delivers the information readers need to achieve a more profound level of understanding of the pandemic and, with that, of AIDS’ impact on mankind.
Writer and photographer Alina Oswald interviewed artist Mario Sostre for the October 2012 Gallery.