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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

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2,030513,296 (4.4)79
  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 by Siddhartha Mukherjee (DetailMuse)
    DetailMuse: Both are excellent history-of-medicine narratives.

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» See also 79 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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 |
Devastating and infuriating. All I did while reading this was shake my head in disbelief, anger or sadness. So many unnecessary deaths, so much blame to spread around. I lived this era as a fledgling physician, hearing about a "new disease", then hearing about AIDS on the West Coast, then treating babies and hemophiliacs during my training in a pediatric hospital. I (unforgivably) did not know enough about this shameful backstory in which a nation, its leaders, and its public (including some of the gay community itself) turned its back on their own. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
Why was AIDS allowed to spread unchecked during the early 1980s while our most trusted institutions ignored or denied the threat? In this expose of one of the most important issues of our time, the author answers this question - revealing how the federal government put its budgetary concerns ahead of the nation's welfare, how health authorities placed political expediency before public health, and how some scientists valued national prestige more than saving lives.
Review: From the author of The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk (1983), a massive, ominous, compelling book that tells the most definitive story of the AIDS crisis in America to date. As his subtitle implies. Shilts concentrates on two different stories, alternating between them with novelistic ease. The first details the sad politics played by the government, the media, the medical establishment, and the gay community since gay men in America started having immune problems in 1980, and dying of what was then known as "gay pneumonia." The government has been slow in funding; the media slow (and inexact and squeamish) in reporting; American and French medical researchers are at each other's throats, fighting over who should get credit for discovery of the virus (the French, according to Shilts); and the gay community, particularly in dries like San Francisco and New York, took a long time to get over the fear of repressive homophobia and unite to shut the bathhouses and educate against the disease. The personal story is as horrifying as that of any war, because it's the tale of young men cut down in their prime, dying of rare diseases or turning into old men practically overnight. Shilts follows the lives of gay activists like Bill Kraus and Cleve Jones of S.F., men who had seen their dreams of political power realized, men whose potential was unlimited until the disease struck and both were felled. There is also the incredible story of a handsome French-Canadian airline steward named Gaetan Dugas (but known as "Patient Zero" in government studies). Dugas - who once estimated he'd slept with 2,500 men - quite possibly brought the first AIDS infection to America; researchers discovered that, of the first 240 men to die of the disease, Dugas had slept with 40 of them. In all: knowledgeable, painful, compulsively readable. Shilts has written the book on the AIDS epidemic. (Kirkus Reviews)
  LibraryPAH | Oct 12, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (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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