CD-ROM brings HIV/AIDS information to countries with poor internet service

By Kevin Boyd

For doctors in developing countries of Africa and Asia, finding the latest
information on HIV/AIDS is nearly impossible because of sluggish and unreliable
Internet connections. A new CD-ROM produced by UCSF’s HIV InSite may help to
bridge the information gap.

The CD, titled “Women, Children, and HIV: Resources for Prevention and
Treatment,” was distributed last month to hundreds of African physicians and
health ministers who attended the Third International Conference on Global
Strategies for the Prevention of HIV Transmission from Mothers to Infants, in
Kampala, Uganda. 

“Getting current medical information in Africa and other developing countries
is still a big problem.  In the US, we assume that if we put all the
information on an Internet site, people all over they world will be able to get
it. But in many countries, modem lines are very expensive and many non-profit
health care facilities can’t afford enough time online to find the information
they need,” said one of the project’s editors Arthur Ammann, MD, UCSF adjunct
professor of pediatrics and president of Global Strategies for HIV Prevention.

The CD-ROM presents the equivalent of 5000 printed pages of in-depth
information on several categories such as counseling and testing, the care of
women and children with HIV, prevention, and nutrition and infant feeding. 

Each category contains articles on topics ranging from guidelines and policy
analysis from the WHO or CDC, to articles on community education and training,
to supporting articles from major medical research journals.  The CD also
offers contact information for organizations in each topic area that can
provide more information or training.

“We surveyed our audience and tried to focus on the topics that were of the
most critical interest to them,” said Larry Peiperl, MD, executive editor for
the project, and UCSF assistant professor of medicine.

In developing countries, the combination of expensive phone lines and slow
Internet connections often makes it financially impossible for physicians to
find and download the latest publications and information, Ammann said. 

“In Uganda they conducted a study on the drug nevirapine that revolutionized
the prevention of mother-to-child transmission around the world.  But once the
article was published, many of the Ugandan physicians who participated in study
couldn’t get a copy of it,” he said.

However, many hospitals do have computers with CD-ROM drives.  “These CD’s cost
about a dollar each for the materials and reproduction, which makes them much
cheaper and more practical than traditional printing methods,” Peiperl said.

Physicians who received the CD-ROM last month have already begun to send in
positive feedback.  Doctors are reporting the CD serves as a very useful, quick
reference, and provides them with data they couldn’t find elsewhere, Peiperl

Although this CD focuses on HIV/AIDS issues for women and children, the
researchers hope to garner funding for a number of follow-up CD’s on several
other topics, said Paul Volberding, MD, co-director of HIV InSite, chief of the
medical service at San Francisco VA Medical Center, and UCSF professor of

“We will be partnering with schools, educational groups and others in Africa to
produce more CDs like this one that focus on the HIV/AIDS information that
region needs most,” he said.

They also plan to periodically update and expand the “Women and Children” CD so
that readers will have access to the latest information.

Other editors on the project from HIV InSite included Policy and International
Editor Lisa Garbus, MPP; and Maureen Shannon, RN, NP, Bay Area Pediatric AIDS

The project was supported by funding from Global Strategies for HIV Prevention,
the John M. Lloyd Foundation, and the American Foundation for AIDS Research

UCSF’s HIV InSite ( is the most comprehensive source
of information on the Internet about HIV disease.  The site was created and is
written and edited by internationally recognized experts. Each month HIV InSite
receives more than 3 million hits from users in more than 150 countries.

Thomas Coates, MD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the AIDS Research
Institute, is co-director (with Volberding) of HIV InSite.