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

by Randy Shilts

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1,947503,501 (4.42)65
  1. 20
    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: An Oral History of the Zombie War 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: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (DetailMuse)
    DetailMuse: Both are excellent history-of-medicine narratives.
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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Randy Shilts' 1987 book is the definitive, thread to the needle eye account of the discovery, denial and destruction of the AIDS epidemic which devastated thousands of lives in the 1980s. Even today, when most people understand how HIV is transmitted and with antiretroviral treatment available to slow the onset of AIDS, the disease is still a newsworthy issue, with the NHS refusing to fund PrEP treatment in the UK.

Charting the first cases of AIDS - or GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), which was the original call-it-as-you-see-it acronym for the disease - in 1980, up until the release of the book in 1987, Shilts tells a modern medical horror story of ignorance, denial, underfunding, prejudice and the almost willful manslaughter of thousands of gay men in America, primarily, but eventually worldwide. First there was the slur of 'gay cancer', and the assumption that only homosexual men were vulnerable to the strange and seemingly unconnected symptoms of Kaposi's sarcoma, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) - so there was no urgent need to look for a cause or a cure. The government withheld funding for research, so that doctors like Marcus Conant, Jim Curran and Michael Gottlieb were left struggling to put the pieces of the viral jigsaw together. Neither did the gay community help matters, fighting the closure of bathhouses in San Francisco and New York - the greatest danger to gay men - and refusing to heed advice on safe sex because they valued so-called 'civil rights' over staying alive. Men like airline steward Gaetan Dugas - Patient Zero, or the 'Typhoid Mary' of AIDS - knowingly infected others with the disease, through denial or anger at being struck down themselves.

Punctuated by statistical updates from the aptly termed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report - 50 cases, 100 cases, 1000, 2000, with growing numbers of casualties every year - the chapters in Stilts' book cover the medical and political aspects of AIDS, from petty scientists refusing to work together and seeking recognition over results to 'AIDSpeak' (don't offend or embarrass anyone) and the Reagan administration turning a blind eye to the epidemic sweeping America for five years. 'It was about sex and it was about homosexuals,' Stilts quotes Mark Gottlieb.' Taken together, it had simply embarrassed people - the politicians, the reporters, the scientists'. Nobody wanted to talk openly about the sexual transmission of the disease, and when other methods of infection were revealed - blood transfusions, treatment for hemophilia, intravenous drug users, mothers passing the virus on to their unborn babies - 'respectable' society was having none of the truth. The sheer selfish greed of the blood banking industry, who wouldn't test donors for signs of AIDS for fear that they would lose money, staggered me - and this is thirty-plus years on!

There is a human element to story, too, of course. Long before Rock Hudson made AIDS famous, men like Gary Walsh and Bobbi Campbell, the self-styled 'KS poster boy', and Frances Borchelt, a grandmother infected by a blood transfusion - were dying long, painful and miserable deaths while the government withheld money for tests and treatment.

Even now, everybody should read Randy Shilts' book because AIDS is still a fact of life, and the struggle that doctors, scientists and epidemiologists went through to isolate the virus and find a combination of drugs which halts the AIDS death sentence shouldn't be forgotten. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Aug 3, 2016 |
Interesting that I finished this book just before Halloween. One of its most powerful aspects is the name and stories of the men who died from AIDS in its earliest days, names that would otherwise be lost to history. Granted, the first few deaths from blood transfusions are also mentioned, but that is part of the power that Shilts imports to his writing: so many in the US news media, government, and health care ignored the AIDS crisis because it was a gay disease" and it involved "embarrassing details about sex" that thousands of preventable deaths happened.

Having been in college when the announcement of the discovery of the AIDS virus came across, I was amazed at the incredible amount of in-fighting that took place before its discovery. Shameful.

And then there was AIDS-speak. What hypocrisy. Word on the street, even in the early 80's, was the AIDS was sexually transmitted. But to decide for others that "they shouldn't be panicked" or that the bathhouses were part of gay liberation instead of death houses? What terrible, terrible things, and what a waste of time and resources. Not to mention the blood transfusion denials. I learned later that Isaac Asimov died from a blood transfusion as much as from his liver giving out. Think of what this one man could have written.

This book has been out for almost 30 years, and it has taken me almost 30 years to read it. It's hard to put down, heavy as it is, but the range of emotions it evokes is intense. And they're not the happy emotions, either." ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
This was one of many re-reads for me. I still marvel at the incredible reportage of this tour-de-force. ( )
  Lightfantastic | Apr 16, 2016 |
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic is a best-selling work of nonfiction written by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts published in 1987. It chronicles the discovery and spread of HIV and AIDS with a special emphasis on government indifference and political infighting to what was initially perceived as a gay disease, that has affected the United States and the world for decades after. The book is an extensive work of investigative journalism, written in the form of an extended time line, the events that shaped the epidemic presented as sequential matter-of-fact summaries. Shilts describes the impact and the politics involved in battling the disease on particular individuals in the gay, medical, and political communities. It begins in the late 1970s in Africa, with the then first confirmed case of AIDS, that of Grethe Rask, a Danish doctor, and it ends with the announcement by Rock Hudson in 1985 that he was dying of AIDS, when international attention on AIDS exploded.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
The amount of work that went into this was amazing. With the downfall of the print media it would be hard to imagine something like this being put out today. Highly recommended. ( )
  Fearshop | Aug 20, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Although I’ve not read the book, I do have this on VHS. I remember watching the movie and I though it didn’t get enough attention, because people’s fears and attitudes really haven’t changed much, even after all these decades.

In 1986, my Mom was reluctant to tell people that she had cancer because some uninformed people actually thought they could catch cancer from someone else. The same fears abound with Aids.
 
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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 expose.… (more)

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