Longtime Washington Post journalist Craig Timberg and award-winning AIDS researcher Daniel Halperin tell the surprising story of how western colonial powers unwittingly sparked the AIDS epidemic and then fanned its rise. Drawing on remarkable new science, Tinderbox overturns the conventional wisdom on the origins of this deadly epidemic and the best ways to fight it today.
Recent genetic discoveries have traced the birth of HIV to the forbidding equatorial forests of Cameroon, where chimpanzees carried a nearly identical virus for millennia without causing a major outbreak in humans.
During the Scramble for Africa near the turn of the twentieth century, colonial companies blazed new routes through the jungle in search of rubber and other riches, sending African porters into remote regions rarely traveled before. It was here, during the age of european conquest, that humans first contracted the strain of HIV that would eventually cause 99 percent of AIDS deaths around the world.