Stuff You Should Know | Podcast Review | December 9, 2015 | By

Stuff You Should Know: How HIV/AIDS Works

Chuck and Josh shine when discussing the nuts and bolts of how the virus actually works. My favorite parts of this podcast are when we get into the details of a topic that I couldn’t really understand by just reading off of a website.



HIV isn’t fun. But one of the biggest issues society first had with the with the virus was awareness, and it’s important not to forget that. Thankfully, Josh and Chuck are back at it this week to share some light on the most infamous virus and disease of the final quarter of the 20th Century.

There’s a lot to unpack in this episode. Don’t be fooled by the Part 1 and Part 2. It’s more of one extra long session than two separate episodes. I recommend listening to them back to back if you have the time. Just be prepared, Mr. Clark and Mr. Bryant did their homework, and they may set the SYSK record for the number of statistics they throw out (in a good way!)

Chuck and Josh shine when discussing the nuts and bolts of how the virus actually works. My favorite parts of this podcast are when we get into the details of a topic that I couldn’t really understand by just reading off of a website. Their explanations about how HIV (I had to resist saying HIV virus, which is as redundant as ATM Machine) actually works to infiltrate and hijack the immune system still fascinates me.

There’s a lot more to HIV than just how RNA in a cell wrapper binds to a very specific set of proteins in your T Helper cells. The effects it has had on society, including who, how and why it has effected certain segments of the population more than others could fill up an entire podcast season just on its own.

This was certainly a dense topic, and it still felt like Josh and Chuck had to throw out facts in rapid succession. They really did their research! I think with a topic that pervades so many different areas of life, they had to carefully select which stories and threads to highlight. As someone that grew up after the panic of the initial HIV/AIDS scares, it was interesting to get more background and fill in the gaps on my own scattered knowledge.

Again, there’s a lot to learn from this episode, from the development of HIV treatments, to how celebrities have affected the HIV epidemic, and even how different behaviors/manners of transmission have startlingly different infection rates.

One area I wish we did hear a little more about, is the ongoing AIDS epidemic in Africa. While Josh and Chuck did not by any means mention that HIV or AIDS had been cured there, I wish they had touched more on the continuing crisis that rages across Sub-Saharan Africa.  I came across this map a couple of weeks ago, and it shows a much more dire picture of the AIDS crisis than I thought was the case. The lack of HIV/AIDS discussions within the US, outside of the steady flow of positive news about new drug treatments, led me to incorrectly assumed the virus had been more or less contained in other parts of the world as well.

The good news, as we learn from their description of how far HIV drugs have come and how the rates of transmission for infected persons are exponentially lower, the future looks bright for containing the virus.

I’m still grappling with whether it would’ve made sense to cut this two-parter more tightly and have one episode be about the virus and its mechanisms for attacking the body, i.e. how HIV works. Episode two would focus more on the effects the virus has had and how we’ve dealt with treatments, how society has reacted, etc. I’ve decided that the more free-flowing conversational style is why I tune in to SYSK each week. At times our hosts follow some long tangents, but that makes them human. It’s much easier and more enjoyable for me to keep listening to this format when I don’t exactly know what will happen next.

About the Author

Nick Wade is a founding writer at Audiologue, where he writes about The Sporkful and Stuff  You Should Know. You can find him at nick@audiologue.xyz.

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