Did Polio Researchers Create AIDS?

Was AIDS caused by human error? That's the intriguing question that former BBC reporter Edward Hooper tries to answer in The River (Little, Brown), an exhaustive but quite readable tome that is part travelogue, part scientific inquiry, part investigative journalism. Hooper tries to establish what a panel of scientists convened in 1992 could not--that HIV spread from chimps to man in contaminated experimental polio vaccines that were tested in Africa. He comes close--very close--but falls short of the smoking-gun evidence that would put the issue to rest.

Hooper re-creates the early days of polio-vaccine research and weaves this narrative into the...

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