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Institutional licence £120; individual licence £30; developing world licence £20. CD-Roms are not Apple Mac compatible. Disc adviser: Dr J E Richens, Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Royal Free and University College London Medical School, UK. London: The Wellcome Trust, 2003. ISBN 0 85199 631 0.
Having previously resisted the temptation to upgrade from printed text to the 21st century I was suitably impressed by both the technical design and the factual content of this 2nd edition CD-Rom. As a bit of a computer novice I found the software easy to install and navigate with helpful instructions at the touch of a button. The program itself runs on Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT4, or XP and needs 32MB of RAM with at least a 120 MHz Intel Pentium processor (or equivalent).
The CD-Rom provides a vast wealth of information on all aspects of common and tropical STIs that are presented in the form of 18 interactive tutorials, each reviewed by expert authors, and a collection of about 800 images. The material covered ranges from history taking and clinical examination to epidemiology, laboratory diagnosis, and syndromic management of STIs. It includes in-depth tutorials on individual STIs that provide up to date references on management useful both in the developing and developed world. HIV/AIDS is covered in a separate CD-Rom. However, there is detailed mention here of epidemiological synergy with common STIs and trials exploring control of STIs to reduce transmission of HIV.
The 18 tutorials consist of 50–70 slides on each topic. The CD-Rom is therefore topic led with no search facility for those wishing to access a list of differential diagnoses by symptoms and signs. The user’s attention span is maximised by a mixture of high quality images interspersed with relevant yet concise text and a useful summary of all sections. Interactive quizzes and diagrams help to reinforce learning and a notepad is strategically placed for users wishing to go back to basics and include their own free text. A glossary is available on each page should any terms need further clarification and all text is fully referenced. The pictures used in all the tutorials appear chronologically in the image collection and can be printed. They can also be sorted and saved in groups of your choice. The only hitch is that they can’t be downloaded into presentations, personal slide libraries, or palm pilots—shame!
The detail presented is still not enough to rival textbooks such as King Holmes’s Sexually Transmitted Diseases but this is not the purpose of the CD-Rom. It is ambitiously designed for use as an educational resource in both developed and developing countries and I think it serves this purpose well. Its appeal spans a broad range: medical students swatting for exams (and SpRs sitting Dip GUM!), academic researchers as a useful point of reference and all healthcare professionals involved in direct clinical care of patients with STIs including nurses and health advisers.
Overall, the CD-Rom provides an interactive way of accessing and assimilating a huge amount of information on all aspects of STIs. It is definitely much more user friendly than lugging a huge textbook around and gets a big thumbs-up from me!
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