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  1. M STONE
  1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  2. Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, Gwent, UK

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    Condoms.Edited by Adrian Mindel. (Pp 230; £18.95.) BMJ Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7279-1267-4.****

    Who on earth would write a textbook on condoms? It is inevitable that such mistaken remarks are heard too frequently. The very opposite applies; this is not only a book which is fitting that every medical student or doctor should consider exploring but also should find its place in every medical library. The editor has found excellent contributors who give this multiauthor book a steady and developing theme.

    One quickly realises that it is regrettable that so many have associated the peaks in condom use with war and commercial sex or with the HIV epidemic. The scope of this book for so many fields of medicine is easily appreciated when one realises the socioeconomic cost of 50 million abortions and 30 million unintended pregnancies in the world, in addition to the wide variety of sexually transmitted diseases. The editor so rightly comments on the value that his book would have if it affected just 1% of these people per year.

    The scope for a wider understanding of the difficulties of the third world is perhaps best appreciated by the wide disparity in condom use by commercial sex workers within Europe compared with those, albeit working within Europe, from the third world.

    A broader understanding of the world is achieved from this book. One appreciates the difficulties of limiting the spread of HIV in such countries as Uganda where it is apparent that a woman's worth is judged by her fertility. This book is a mine of information and a wonderful source of reference for further exploration for not only medical students but also family planning doctors and nurses, genitourinary specialists, gynaecologists, public health physicians, and those in related specialties such as socioeconomic and government advisers.

    It has an excellent chapter on the history of condoms. For anybody with an interest in medical history this is interesting reading which hopefully will stimulate further exploration of the historical basis to medicine and the wide range of specialties encompassed

    Condoms have been assumed by the French to have had their origins in a poem by Lord Bell Haven (1656–1708) but probably date back to the time of the Ancient Greeks or perhaps Imperial Rome. Whatever the origins undoubtedly condoms will survive in society for a further thousand years. Hopefully physicians and allied specialists will consider this a justification for reading this well written text.