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And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  14,133 ratings  ·  752 reviews
Upon it's first publication twenty years ago, And The Band Played on was quickly recognized as a masterpiece of investigatve reporting. An international bestseller, a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and made into a critically acclaimed movie, Shilts' expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked during the early 80's while the most trusted in ...more
ebook, 656 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1987)
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Melody
This book brought back the early 80s in hallucinatory detail. I remember when we first heard about Gay Cancer, and how hard it was to get any decent information. I remember when the world got wobbly and my friends were dying and it seemed like nobody cared. I was quite certain that, given my penchant for fey boys, I wouldn't be around to see the turn of the century. I vividly remember making up file folders for 1989 for my job and thinking that the ones for 1990 would be in someone else's handwr ...more
Hadrian


"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals."

-Jerry Falwell

"In this respect our townfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn't always pass away, and from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away ..."

-Albert Camus, The Plague

Perh
...more
Katie Abbott Harris
If you're seeking a comprehensive history of the AIDS epidemic, look no further. Written as a detective story, this must read book covers all aspects of the disease, from history, to journalism, to politics, to people. Randy Shilts, in his thorough investigative report, highlights the many blunders along the way, blunders that are unbelievable in retrospect. It is not an anti-Republican rant, rather it is a very fair assessment of the collective failure of all entities involved. Because the indi ...more
laaaaames
This book is really important, considering:

1. We are likely not safe from another random crazy deadly virus that will catch us offguard.

2. You have probably underestimated what an asshole Reagan was.

3. You might be going to see Milk soon and would like to read of some of what happened after him in SF politics.

4. Prop 8 effing passed, proving our society has farther to come than perhaps we realized.

Points deducted because apparently the Patient Zero story is a bit hinky. Also it's often a lot to
...more
Tamora Pierce
This has to be the most maddening book I've ever read, and that includes books on the Vietnam and Second World Wars. As AIDS arrives in the world in the late 1970s, it strikes Africa first, then the American gay scene. Shilts documents the search for the virus in all its muddled, politicized, under-funded, disregarded insanity, during which gay men died quickly or slowly, without drugs that did more than eased their passing for years, in their homes or in facilities that had no more notion of ho ...more
Larry
I recall being so incensed at the failure of common decency across every part of the 'establishment' spectrum that I think I can trace much of my continuing skepticism of our political process directly to Randy's work.

I actually think this book should be required reading at college level for any political science class that is examining the flaws of what our system can become. Eisenhower http://youtu.be/8y06NSBBRtY was right in his grave warnings about the danger inherent in the 'military indus
...more
Sasha
I think everyone should read this book. Seriously. Randy Shilts presents the epic tale of the beginning of the AIDs epidemic through the eyes of health officials, scientists, doctors, politicians, patients, and the media. It is an incredible story of how America willfully ignored the spread of AIDs until it was too late to stem. He uses all the interviews and research that he did as a journalist for the SF Chronicle who covered the epidemic full time for years. The book travels all over the worl ...more
Mark
I didn't finish this. Reads like bad journalism. The story is, of course, tragic, but the various accounts ring false like the stories that actors tell. For example, we find: "On a hunch, Gottlieb twisted some arms to convince pathologists to take a small scraping of the patient's lung tissue through a nonsurgical maneuver." OK, so the author isn't a doctor, but 1. pathologists don't do endobronchial biopsies, pulmonologists do, 2.nobody has to twist a pulmonologists arm to do an endobronchial b ...more
Kater Cheek
This book has just about everything I like in a non-fiction. It's got science, medicine, high stakes, historical significance, and modern relevance. Trying to figure out why it wasn't more compelling to me, I had to focus on the 6th word in the title: Politics.

This novel is about AIDS, but it's much more about people than about science. Shilts has a huge cast of characters, from French researchers to gay activists to scientists with the NIH and CDC. He tracks the disease from Fire Island nightcl
...more
Laini
There are a few things in my life that I can point to as having monumentally changed it.

#1, As a child raised by a racist mother, seeing the movie "Mississippi Burning" for the first time. I bawled my eyes out when I realized the extent of my ignorance of my black brothers and sisters and feeling utterly ashamed that I did not know more about the civil rights movement. Because someone I cared about had intentionally seen to it that I hadn't learned about it. Because watching Roots "wasn't neces
...more
Sam Honeycutt
If someone wished to write an how NOT to, he /she should follow how this book reads. The is an book that reminds me that the President of the United State never let the word AIDS leave his mouth until a friend of his Rock Hudson died of it. No one wanted to do anything about it as long as it was kept within the blacks, queers, and hemophiliacs. As long as it was GRID it didn't matter.
When they were told that it was bloodborne and there was a test for it, the American Red Cross didn't want to run
...more
Ayne Ray
This landmark work is a detailed investigative report and eventual scathing indictment of the social and political forces that helped contribute to the tragic and rapid spread of the AIDS epidemic in its earliest years. Twenty years later, it still stands as one of the most important books on its topic.
Jennifer
And the Band Played On is as important a tool in the teaching of American history as Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. When crafting the required reading for students of American history, And the Band Played On needs to be added to that list.

For many of us, this epidemic started in our lifetime. We remember first hearing about it on the news, but not really knowing what it was about. We remember the misinformation and differing accounts of t
...more
Paul Bryant
A great and compelling book, but somehow, even in Reagan's America, it's hard to go along with the conspiracy theorists who make out that the government was merrily fiddling away while Rome burned. I mean, look at the response which people got when they wanted to close the bath houses.
Sara
Absolutely blown away. Longer review forthcoming.
Lisa Ann Gallagher
My top 10 list of books consists of fiction - and this. I was in my 20's and came across this book at a garage sale. The title looks academic but there's nothing cold or dispassionate or removed about it. The author (small spoiler) died not long after he finished this and you can feel the race against time he must have experienced, as you read it.

This story-of-a-disease is really about people. Health care practitioners, politicians, bureaucrats, epidemiologists, one famous Hollywood actor and a
...more
Jeremy
Brutal. Just...completely and totally brutal. Shilts weaves together a stunningly wide variety of people and perspectives, bouncing between the ramifications the early AIDS epidemic had on public health, public policy, medicial/scientific research, blood banks, the gay community, government spending, media coverage, social stigma...ad infinitum.

This book catalogs one of the great nadirs of modern American life; a time when institutionalized apathy and indifference in almost every government and
...more
E
Shilts writes at the end of And The Band Played On that the book is a work of journalism and that there has been no fictionalization, yet goes on to state that he reconstructs scenes and conversations, albeit based on interviews and other research. To me this process necessarily entails some degree of fictionalization, or at the very least, a departure from an 'objective' history of AIDS in Europe and America. Shilts can hardly be faulted for this given his professional and personal immersion in ...more
Sophie
This book had been sitting on my shelves for years before I finally read it. I remember reading a review back on LibraryThing, where someone described as one of the best pieces of non-fiction they had ever read. Since it was about a period and a subject I knew little about but was curious to learn more, I got a copy. But then, it just never was the right time. I actually picked it up every so often but never managed to read more than the first couple of pages. This time, however, it was differen ...more
Grumpylibrarian
Feb 03, 2008 Grumpylibrarian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
This book changed my life in the most literal sense imaginable. And The Band Played On forced me to become an practicing feminist and advocate for sexual and, far more importantly, global health.

I read Randy Shilts tome for a Sociology of HIV/AIDS course at University of Toronto in the summer of 2005, arguably one of the most popular and most difficult courses to get into on the undergraduate schedule. The course was facinating and demanding. We read Shilts' book as a text and avoided more te
...more
Graceann
History isn't the best category for me to shelve this title, since the crisis continues, but it was the best I could do. Randy Shilts has done a remarkable work of journalism here, and 25 years later, it still infuriates.

In 1981, when doctors first started noticing young men turning up in their offices with strange ailments that usually only afflicted the elderly, they pushed for a strong research backing to find out what was causing it. Nobody lifted a finger or spent a penny in those early da
...more
Elizabeth Finnegan


A friend of mine loaned me this book in the late eighties, and it cut through the illogical and gimmicky rhetoric I was hearing about HIV/AIDS in my late teens. It is a book that emphasizes the need to take care of the sick and explains how our vanities and prejudices can prevent us for doing that. Several years ago I saw this book laying amongst a pile of discarded books in the dusty hallway of a college. A note had been posted above the pile which read "Please take." This book is too important
...more
Karen
This is a life-changing book. Like so many straight people, I had few contacts in the gay world when the AIDS epidemic began to take hold, and since (as I now know, thanks to Shilts) almost no major newspapers or media were following the story, it wasn't until the news broke about Rock Hudson that I began to understand what was happening. Shilts fills in those gaps for everyone like me. As the book progresses in its mesmerizing, chronological style, jumping from place to place, alternating perso ...more
V. Briceland
Revisiting Randy Shilts' groundbreaking history of the early day of the AIDS epidemic in the United States after my first reading of it some twenty-five years ago was a little bit of an eye-opening experience. I still admire Shilts' month-by-month analysis of how public health officials, the research science industry, the gay population affected most directly by the plague, and the government at both the local and federal level responded—or in most cases, failed to respond—to the burgeoning thre ...more
Todd Libasci
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nicole Mercer
I started reading this book because I noticed a few of my grad school classmates were required to read it for their TAships. When I found it at the bookstore I was a little intimidated by its length. 600 pages isn't really that long, except that science books tend to be dense and relatively difficult reads.

I shouldn't have worried. Randy Shilts was a living breathing reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I would call "And the Band Played On" an ama
...more
Meaghan
This book took me nearly a month to finish and I don't regret any of it. In some ways, I'm surprised I didn't do more marathon reading to get through it, but it felt right for the events to trudge forward on a slower time frame. The backdrop to the story itself is the heartbreakingly slow movement of the government, science community, and gay community to taken action once AIDS took root in San Francisco and New York, and reading just 30 pages or so a day out of 650 brought that feeling home.

Th
...more
Lynn
Simply put, one of the best books I've ever read, and probably the most gripping nonfiction I've ever come across. Told in straightforward, chronological order, with a mix of personal portraits and political, medical, and social reporting, this traces the first many years of the spread of the AIDS virus. It is a fascinating, but horrifying account of the (lack of) response to the disease during its brisk progression from rare and mysterious affliction to a much more common, but still marginalize ...more
Timothy
Take aways from this book include that Ronald Reagan was an asshole; the gay community was itself complicit in the proliferation of the AIDS epidemic; the blood banking industry had suspicions of the viral agent but valued profit over human life; and let me just repeat that Ronald Reagan was an ass hole. The AIDS problem didn't have to be this bad.

That last takeaway was why it was a hard book to finish.

I did have a couple style issues with the way the book was written, but they seem so moot in c
...more
Eli
"Later, everybody agreed that the baths should have been closed sooner; they agreed health education should have been more direct and more timely. And everybody also agreed blood banks should have tested blood sooner, and that a search for the AIDS virus should have been started sooner, and that scientists should have laid aside their petty intrigues. Everybody subsequently agreed that the news media should have offered better coverage of the epidemic much earlier, and that the federal governme ...more
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Can anyone recommend a follow-up read? 6 86 Nov 04, 2014 11:02AM  
The 2015 Reading ...: July/August 2014- And The Band Played On 23 39 Jul 31, 2014 08:22AM  
  • Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir
  • Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues
  • The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS
  • Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health
  • Stonewall
  • The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies
  • The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS
  • When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
  • Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
  • The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History
  • The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity
  • The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS
  • Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two
  • The River : A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS
  • Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America
  • The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps
  • Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections
  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
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Randy Shilts was a highly acclaimed, pioneering gay American journalist and author. He worked as a reporter for both The Advocate and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as for San Francisco Bay Area television stations.
More about Randy Shilts...
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk Conduct Unbecoming: Gays And Lesbians In The Us Military As Real As It Gets: The Life of a Hospital at the Center of the AIDS Epidemic Unknown California

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“How very American, he thought, to look at a disease as homosexual or heterosexual, as if viruses had the intelligence to choose between different inclinations of human behavior.” 3 likes
“We will not have any of these cases in the Soviet Union,” said a Soviet delegate confidently. Don Francis couldn’t resist saying to Marc Conant in his loudest stage whisper, “And they won’t, all right.” In a stern Russian accent, Francis continued: “You have AIDS—bang, bang, bang.” The Soviets were not amused.” 0 likes
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