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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Marvin J. Bittner, MD, MSc, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA (Creighton University Medical Center)
Description: Written for an audience with no more technical background than that of the daily newspaper reader, this work updates the 1996 edition in a student-friendly textbook that amounts to a sort of encyclopedia of AIDS.
Purpose: Education in the biological basis of AIDS is the author's goal — and an important one. Advancing toward that goal, he provides clear explanations, engaging descriptions of the significance of research, and wide-ranging explanations of AIDS biology, from "What is a virus?" to "How does a DNA vaccine work?" Frustrating the effort are inaccuracy (Kaposi's sarcoma is said on p. 100 to be described in 1924, but Dr. Kaposi died in 1902) and outdated material (a common pneumonia in AIDS is described on p. 245 as caused by protozoan Pneumocystis carinii and treated preferably with pentamidine — rather than caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jiroveci and treated preferably with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole).
Audience: The author seeks an audience ranging from the term paper writer to the physician, and the book will be appropriate for just such a broad audience. Admittedly, the term paper writer may have limited interest in details of needlestick exposure management. Many physicians may know much of the fundamentals, yet learn from the author's lucid descriptions of research, such as the coin-flip strategy (p. 131) for eliciting sexual behavior histories. The author, who died before publication, was a university-level PhD professor of microbiology.
Features: Extensive coverage of AIDS includes history, cause, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and ongoing research. Many features assist learning. Each chapter has an outline, a list of goals, sidebars with frequently asked questions, sidebars with explanations, numerous illustrations, a concluding summary, review questions (with answers), and references for further reading. Illustrations include patient photos, maps, graphs, and diagrams. The book concludes with an outline for a 10-session course, a pronunciation guide, and a glossary. This book treats AIDS with what has been described as "the signature Alcamo style, which includes a friendly tone, personal writing style, student-friendly organization, and real-world applications."
Assessment: Although outstanding for pedagogical technique, this book's value is impaired by inaccurate, outdated material. I hope that, as with Dr. Alcamo's microbiology text (Pommerville, Alcamo's Fundamentals of Microbiology, 7th Edition (Jones & Bartlett, 2004)), a colleague will update the content and retain the style.