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Ed M W Adler. Pp 128; £17.95. London: BMJ Books, 2001. ISBN 0 7279 1503 7.
Writing a good textbook on HIV infection is very difficult. Large textbooks that attempt to be comprehensive face the problem that, in what is now such a vast and still rapidly moving field, they are out of date by the time they are published. Smaller textbooks on the other hand have to decide what to leave out. This book is clearly aimed as an introduction to the subject for people without much experience of HIV. Although not attempting in any way to be comprehensive, it is often remarkably detailed despite its brevity. I think that it is much the best of the available short textbooks for a general readership. It is (relatively) cheap and unlike other books, as it is so concise is likely to be read by those who buy it.
The best chapter is also the longest, on “Treatment of infections and antiviral therapy” (what else is there left?), which forms the core of the book. There are also two very readable chapters written by patients. If read together these three chapters make clear the profound changes that combination antiretroviral therapy has produced since 1996, in a way that some other chapters curiously do not. The chapter on gastrointestinal manifestations, for example, has not been revised significantly in this edition to reflect the impact of HAART.
The book has some shortcomings. There is little mention of the issue of late presentation of disease, which is a particular problem in the United Kingdom especially among those with heterosexually acquired infection; the sections on counselling and epidemiology fail to reflect this. The massive problem of co-infection with hepatitis C is touched on only briefly in two chapters. There is no separate section on women with HIV infection (although mother to child transmission is well covered in the paediatric section). While the colour illustrations are generally excellent, the reproductions of chest x rays are not so good, and the same mangled slide of a patient with pulmonary lymphoma found in earlier editions of the book is reproduced unchanged in this one. Finally, post-exposure prophylaxis is poorly dealt with, which is a shame as this is a topic likely to be of major interest to the general reader who has just pricked his or her finger with a bloodstained needle.
However, despite these qualifications, this really is a very good book. I hope the sixth edition is even better.
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