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Book Review: Psychiatric Aspects of HIV/AIDS

Book Review: Psychiatric Aspects of HIV/AIDS

Francisco Fernandez and Pedro Ruiz (eds); Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006480 pages • $59.95 (hardcover)

Reviewed by Bradley N. Gaynes, MD, MPH

In the era of Google and PubMed, a medical reference book finds itself in a precarious position. Is there a role for a bundled, unchangeable hard copy of data that may become outdated in the near (and more easily accessed) future? For some under-researched areas that span different branches of medicine and, accordingly, lack a singular synthesis of information from both areas, the answer can be "yes," especially for a concise, thoughtful, and well-written synthesis. This book falls into that category.

Psychiatric Aspects of HIV/AIDS, edited by longtime collaborators and HIV/AIDS and psychiatry researchers Drs Fernandez and Ruiz, is an accessible and coherent compilation covering a broad spectrum of topics with concise chapters. The text is organized into 7 sections that underscore the full biopsychosocial nature of the disease: "Background" (including epidemiology and current virologic understanding of the disease); "Diagnostic Tools"; "Psychiatric Comorbidity"; "Medical Comorbidity"; "Special Populations"; "Special Issues"; and "Policy Issues." The breadth of these sections allows the book to attend to a variety of audiences.

The "Background" section, which addresses the epidemiology and transmission of HIV/AIDS, will be especially helpful to mental health clinicians in the trenches who may not have a current public health or scientific perspective on the illness. "Diagnostic Tools" reviews the key parts of the psychiatric presentation of HIV/AIDS. I found the chapter on neuropsychological testing to be particularly useful.

Readers who are interested in relevant topics beyond the traditional medical and psychiatric perspectives of HIV/AIDS will likely find the sections on "Special Populations," "Special Issues," and "Policy Issues" the most innovative and thought-provoking parts of the book. It is here that the full spectrum of the biopsychosocial implications of HIV/ AIDS is fleshed out and preventive strategies are considered. Indeed, it is these sections that bridge the gaps that the authors are most concerned with--between clinicians on the one hand, and policy makers, researchers, allied professional groups, and those concerned with the myriad effects of HIV/AIDS on the other.

Despite the range of topics addressed in this book, the chapters themselves are succinct--readers looking for an in-depth discussion of each topic will not find it here, although relevant references are provided. For example, clinicians will not find this book to be a detailed clinical manual, but they will find a pertinent review of key psychotropic considerations, which can be used for informing and developing an effective treatment strategy.

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