And the Band Played on: Before and After
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.”
KeywordsHIV 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.
- 1.Shilts R. And the band played on: politics, people, and the AIDS epidemic. New York: St. Martin’s Press; 1987.Google Scholar
- 2.Harvey D. A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
- 3.Reagan RW. Inaugural address: January 20, 1981. https://reaganlibrary.archives.gov/archives/speeches/1981/12081a.htm.
- 4.Clendinen D, Nagourney A. Out for good: the struggle to build the gay rights movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster; 1999.Google Scholar
- 5.Moore P. Beyond shame: reclaiming the abandoned history of radical gay sexuality. Boston: Beacon; 2004.Google Scholar
- 8.Darrow WW. Community mobilization, community planning, and community-based research for HIV prevention in the United States. In: Smith RA, editor. Global HIV/AIDS politics, policy, and activism: persistent challenges and emerging issues. Santa Barbara: Praeger; 2013. p. 375–99.Google Scholar
- 9.Kayal PM. Bearing witness: gay men’s health crisis and the politics of AIDS. Boulder: Westview; 1993.Google Scholar
- 10.Darrow WW. A national HIV prevention strategy for the United States. In: Smith RA, editor. Global HIV/AIDS politics, policy, and activism: persistent challenges and emerging issues. Santa Barbara: Praeger; 2013. p. 225–48.Google Scholar
- 12.Stoner AE. Reconsidering Randy Shilts: examining the reportage of America’s AIDS Chronicler. Dissertation. Fort Collins: Colorado State University; 2013.Google Scholar
- 13.Levine MP. Gay Macho: the life and death of the homosexual clone. New York: New York University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
- 14.Porter R. Epidemic of fear. New Soc. 1988;4:24–5.Google Scholar
- 16.Moss AR. In response to: AIDS without end. N Y Rev Books. 1988;35(19):60.Google Scholar
- 17.Tasker F, Charles, J. Scientists trace AIDS through Haiti; findings draw anger. The Miami Herald. 2007:1A, 4A.Google Scholar
- 19.Crimp D. Melancholia and moralism: essays on AIDS and queer politics. Boston: MIT Press; 2004.Google Scholar
- 21.Fettner AG, Check WA. The truth about AIDS: evolution of an epidemic. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston; 1984.Google Scholar
- 22.Babineau G. The prettiest one: Remembering Gaétan Dugas and the “AIDS Mary myth”. Xtra West. 2001:13–15. www.xtra.ca/public/National/Gaetan_Dugas_and_the_AIDS_Mary_myth-3885.aspx. Republished on 26 Apr 2011.
- 26.Rogers EM. Diffusion of innovations. 4th ed. New York: Free Press; 1995.Google Scholar
- 27.Holmberg SD. Scientific errors and controversies in the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic: how they slowed advances and were resolved. Westport: Praeger; 2008.Google Scholar
- 28.Colgrove J. Epidemic City: the politics of public health in New York City. New York: Russell Sage Foundation; 2011.Google Scholar
- 29.Haverkos HW. On the front lines of the AIDS pandemic. Saarbrucken: LAP Lambert; 2012.Google Scholar
- 30.Shilts R. Talking AIDS to death: have you heard the one about the waiter and the salad dressing? Esquire. 1989;111(3):123–33.Google Scholar
- 31.Jones C. When we rise: my life in the movement. New York: Hachette; 2017.Google Scholar
- 32.Wu J, Norris JL, Jia Y, Wang N. HIV treatment as prevention: contradictory perspectives from dynamic mathematical models. Sci World J. 2014;760734:1–9.Google Scholar
- 33.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV surveillance report. 2015;27:1–114. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/hiv-surveillance.html. Published Nov 2016. Accessed 26 March 2017.
- 35.Arno PS, Feiden KL. Against the odds: the story of AIDS drug development, politics and profit. New York: Harper Collins; 1993.Google Scholar
- 36.UNAIDS. Global AIDS update: 2016. Geneva: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 2016. http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/global-AIDS-update-2016. Accessed 26 March 2017.
- 37.Bellah RN, Madsen R, Sullivan WM, Swidler A, Tipton SM. Habits of the heart: individualism and commitment in American life. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1985.Google Scholar
- 38.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five years of HIV/AIDS—United States, 1981–2006. Morb Mort Wkly Rep (MMWR). 2006;55(21):585–9.Google Scholar
- 42.France D. How to survive a plague: the inside story of how citizens and science tamed AIDS. New York: Knopf; 2016.Google Scholar