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And the Band Played On: Politics, People,…

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1987)

by Randy Shilts

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,171534,322 (4.4)81
  1. 30
    The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS by Helen Epstein (espertus)
    espertus: Two interesting books on the spread of AIDS in two very different locations and times. "And the Band Played On" is about the emergence of AIDS, with a focus on the San Francisco gay community in the 1980s, which the author was a part of, and the (non-)response by the American government. "The Invisible Cure" is about governments' and NGOs' responses to AIDS in African countries in the 1990s and early 2000s, with varying degrees of success based on different levels of understanding of the problem and effectiveness in directing resources.… (more)
  2. 10
    The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: Another epidemiological thriller, even faster-paced.
  3. 21
    World War Z by Max Brooks (timspalding)
    timspalding: Some may take offense at the suggestion, but I think don't think World War Z could have been written without And the Band Played On, an oral history of the all-too-real AIDS epidemic. Shilts' is by far the better book, even if it weren't true and important.… (more)
  4. 00
    The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (DetailMuse)
    DetailMuse: Both are excellent history-of-medicine narratives.

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» See also 81 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
to call this a comprehensive history would be a gross understatement. Exacting reporting of detail upon detail. It is important to document history, but this is not an easy book to read. In fact in the 100 New Classics list, this book does not have a peer. ( )
  deldevries | Sep 5, 2018 |
My mother asked me about what I'd been reading lately. When I told her, she made a sound of recognition. "It's kind of like a detective novel, isn't?" she mused. "Except the murderer is a virus."

Indeed—especially as Randy Shilts has written it. And the Band Played On covers the AIDS crisis from 1980, the year doctors began to notice a pattern of unusual illness in gay men in San Francisco, to 1985, the year Rock Hudson was outed as gay and a person with AIDS. At over 600 pages, And the Band Played On is perhaps the most comprehensive overview of the early days of the AIDS crisis. It's particularly illuminating for those of us who were born or came of age after the crisis. I was born in 1991, years after we had identified the AIDS virus and established how it was transmitted. I grew up with safe sex lectures and mandatory blood testing; it was shocking to learn how cavalier people were about safe sex, and how far the blood industry went to avoid testing the blood supply.

It would be easy to cast people as heroes and villains, but Shilts goes out of his way to humanize everyone involved. Those he cannot cast in a good light he at least casts in a way that allows us to understand them. He does it almost too well. His characters were so compelling that I found it hard to maintain interest in the political and medical science aspects. I was interested in the discovery of the virus; I was less interested in the subsequent battle between the French and the Americans as to who deserved credit for the discovery. By the end, I had stopped reading the medical science scenes altogether.

But these are small quibbles. And the Band Played On captures a moment in history we'd be remiss to forget. It's recommended reading for everyone, but especially Gen Z and Millenials and those who want to understand the history of gay rights and social justice. ( )
2 vote aechipkin | Sep 24, 2017 |
(38) I am continuing this new foray into influential non-fiction. I have formerly been a novel only kind of gal and I realize now how limiting this predilection has been. So, obviously really late to the party with this one. I have always wanted to read this; I think I may have seen parts of the HBO movie at some point.

This is written by a SF journalist who himself eventually died of AIDS ( had no idea!) - I think he does a commendable job avoiding inserting himself into the narrative. He is as scathing with his portrayal of the gay communiy's hurtful political correctness which hampered public health efforts to stop the spread (AIDS-speak) as he is with homophobic at worst or indifferent to the plight of gay people at best media and government people of the times. I really had not realized how progressive our media and society has become until I compared it with what went on in the 80's. You couldn't use the word "gay" in newspaper articles - really?

So while engaging medical and social history of a time I lived through - with both my own "before" and "after" being my entrance into medical training and how the disease has changed over time -- critically speaking the book was all over the place. I could not follow the organization or the themes of each chapter and section (?the fault of a Kindle vs the fault of the author.) I sometimes felt I could pick this book up at any random point and read a paragraph and it would virtually be saying the same thing - there was no money for research, no one supported our efforts, people are dying. . . . I actually would have liked more science and more medical history re: the African connection. I am not sure what to think about the patient zero parts - I was most engaged when reading about this one individual who may (or more likely may not)have brought HIV to North America.

This book on the whole was at its best in the beginning - relayed almost like a mystery with the first few medical articles and the statistics surrounding the first cluster of cases diagnosed. It did surely bog down in the middle and eventually ground to a halt. But I agree, an important book and one that still resonates today. ( )
  jhowell | Aug 27, 2017 |
This book (published in 1987) is a damning recounting of how a series of bad decisions -- some malicious, some just tragic bad judgement -- let the AIDS epidemic get out of control in the first half of the 1980s. Spoiler alert: a large portion of the blame rests with the Reagan administration and its obsession with cost-cutting. But there were other problems too, like lab directors more concerned with personal prestige than finding the cause and treatments for AIDS, or mistrust between local officials and the gay community over the intentions of public health campaigns, or miscalculations about what information to release to avoid panic or anti-gay backlash.

I learned a lot from this book about what the early days of the AIDS epidemic were like, and some measure of the horror of watching the crisis unfold as people stood by and opportunities were missed to keep it from getting worse. About a few of the heroes, too, who did what they could to help even though there was little hope to be had. ( )
  lavaturtle | Feb 26, 2017 |
Loved this book! The AIDS virus is examined from the first hints of existence of an epidemic in 1980 through the final acceptance of its reality by the government and the press in 1987. The story is set forth through the eyes of the gay community and those who first become ill, gay community leaders who prefer to deal with the politics rather than the health issues, the doctors and scientists who treat and research the disease, the press which expresses little interest while it remains a homosexual matter, and the politicians who want nothing to do with the "hot potato" issue of a sexually transmitted disease ravaging primarily the gay community. The glaring unconcern of a nation in light of the alarms expressed by health professionals is frightening and makes one fear the results of the next health crisis to confront our nation and the world. Almost from the beginning the experts could chart the magnitude of the problem, but no one listened. Ultimately, it took the death of a movie star (Rock Hudson) to shine a light on the disaster that AIDS would prove to the world. ( )
  LeslieHurd | Jan 11, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Randy Shiltsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Counihan, ClaireDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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By October 2, 1985, the morning Rock Hudson died, the word was familiar to almost every household in the Western world.
I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available -- there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered. We do not need infighting. This is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue. And I do not intend to be defeated by it. I came here today in the hope that my epitaph would not read that I died of red tape.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312241356, Paperback)

In the first major book on AIDS, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Randy Shilts examines the making of an epidemic. Shilts researched and reported the book exhaustively, chronicling almost day-by-day the first five years of AIDS. His work is critical of the medical and scientific communities' initial response and particularly harsh on the Reagan Administration, who he claims cut funding, ignored calls for action and deliberately misled Congress. Shilts doesn't stop there, wondering why more people in the gay community, the mass media and the country at large didn't stand up in anger more quickly. The AIDS pandemic is one of the most striking developments of the late 20th century and this is the definitive story of its beginnings.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:06 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An examination of the AIDS crisis critiques the federal government for its inaction, health authorities for their greed, and scientists for their desire for prestige in the face of the AIDS pandemic, in a twentieth anniversary edition of the acclaimed exposâe.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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