And the Band Played on: Before and After

AIDS Behav. 2017 Oct;21(10):2799-2806. doi: 10.1007/s10461-017-1798-2.


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."

Keywords: Disease prevention; HIV epidemic; LGBT history.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / history*
  • Epidemics*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / history*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Politics*
  • United States