AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 2799–2806 | Cite as

And the Band Played on: Before and After

  • William W. Darrow


In fall 1987, Randy Shilts published his second book, “And the Band Played on: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic.” The jacket proclaimed that “the epidemic spread widely because the federal government put budget ahead of the nation’s welfare; health authorities placed political expediency before the public health; and scientists were more often more concerned with international prestige than saving lives.” In the Prologue Shilts wrote, “The bitter truth was that AIDS did not just happen to America—it was allowed to happen by an array of institutions, all of which failed to perform their appropriate tasks to safeguard the public health.” This essay reviews the controversial book published by Randy Shilts 30 years ago in light of some of the events that have followed. First, the context and content of the book—and reactions to its publication—are summarized. Secondly, several major developments after publication of the book are noted. Thirdly, a critical assessment of the author and his work is offered in an era when some politicians and physicians in the United States are imagining “an AIDS-free generation.”


HIV epidemic Disease prevention LGBT history 



Earlier versions of this commentary were presented in a College of Arts and Sciences “Themester” event, “Connectedness: Networks in a Complex World,” at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, on September 15, 2013, and in a plenary session at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care in Miami, Florida, on November 7, 2014. Author and journalist John-Manuel Andriote, professor emeritus of sociology Philip Kayal of Seton Hall University, and retired historian Sally Smith Hughes of the University of California, Berkeley, graciously accepted my invitation to review a prepublication copy of this essay and provided me with constructive comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The author has no conflicts of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robert R. Stempel College of Public Health & Social WorkFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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