And the Band Played On

by Randy Shilts

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

And the Band Played On was written in 2007 by Randy Shilts, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle in the late 1980's. Mr. Shilts had written extensively about the emerging AIDS crisis that started in the early 1980s (when HIV and AIDS was affecting gay men in staggeringly disproportionate numbers). Because AIDS was then known as a "gay disease," there was little to no funding made available to study its inception and transmission. For a long time, it was not even known that the AIDS virus was spread through sexual transmission. The public was largely apathetic until public figures like Rock Hudson began dying from AIDS-related complications.

Shilts notes that even once the full scale of the epidemic was discovered, the federal government was very slow to react to pleas for more funding from researchers and doctors. Once resources were finally made available, internal governmental fighting further stymied scientific attempts to make any real headway against the disease for some time.

The book also discusses the human toll of the disease, on both those who have contracted the disease and on their caretakers and loved ones. Members of the gay community were also further ostracized by a fearful public that didn't really understand how AIDS was transmitted. However, those who were infected with the disease in other ways (such as a blood transfusion) were automatically subjected to less scrutiny than gay men and lesbians.

Shilts expresses his disappointment with how local authorities in New York and especially in San Francisco let internal political squabbling get in the way of actually assisting the people who need it the most. Shilts ends on a somewhat hopeful note; much more is known now about HIV and AIDS than in the early days of the epidemic, and the public is much more educated.

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