Truly compelling portraits of eight AIDS patients, written by a physician gifted with compassion, humor, and an eye for telling detail. Zuger, an infectious-disease specialist who spends Wednesday afternoons at a New York City AIDS clinic, says she would have liked to mount a camera in a corner of her examining room, point it at patients, and let it run. What she has done is far better. Her portraits are brilliant distillations, showing not simply what a camera would see but what she observes and intuits about her patients and what is going on in her own mind as she connects with each one. Each patient is described in series of visits, often months apart. There's the demanding, wily Deborah, who is probably selling her prescriptions (for tranquilizers as well as AZT and other drugs) on the street; toothless, cheerful Michael, on 17 different medications; hostile Cynthia, for whom hospital stays give respite from an overwhelming home life; itching, coughing, hyper Eddie, too busy caring for his family to take his own pills; Anita, whose manners are so perfect, she can't ask for help; clever Shannon, who gets a lot of attention pretending to have AIDS; and finally Nancy, HIV-positive but asymptomatic--except for all the woes that afflict her at night when she remembers her husband's death from AIDS. Besides portraits of unforgettable human beings, Zuger give us a picture of poverty medicine in a world where long waits for short visits with the doctor are the rule; where child care, food, and shelter are pressing everyday issues; and where drugs are a way of life. She asserts that some of the best AIDS medicine in the country is practiced at shabby urban clinics like the one she describes. If they are staffed with doctors like her, that statement seems quite believable. Powerful and rewarding.