Randy Shilts is a journalist who died from AIDS-related complications in 1994, and his 1987 book And The Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic goes a long way to exposing the mystery, intrigue and disbelief that surrounded the AIDS epidemic in the late twentieth century; previously believed to be relevant to gay men only. When he wrote the book, Shilts did not know whether he was HIV positive or not. He wanted to present a well-researched and honest account of the real people affected by the disease and the contribution that he feels the gay community itself made to the spread of the disease and also the blundering administrative delays and lack of funding which led to the disease's spread of epic proportions.
He uses a timeline and personal stories which commence in the 1970s, and at the same time he presents the facts systematically and effectively in order to suggest how short-sighted politicians are and how the general population, whether gay or not, basically ignores its own connection to AIDS. He is very critical and the title, And The Band Played On is indicative of the indifference which he maintains surely cost, not only the lives of many sufferers, but also prevented any real progress in defining the disease. It also highlights the insecurity and shame attached to gay men revealing their status as gay. Shilts says, "By definition, the homosexual in the closet had surrendered his integrity."
Shilts recognizes that powerful people are able to downplay this disease because so many homosexuals cannot or will not reveal their own status as gay. Shilts is also disparaging of what he sees as irresponsible gay men who are more concerned about their civil rights than their health. All the issues collectively result in an underfunded, misunderstood disease which cripples nations and which Shilts seeks to expose.