Storified by Dawn Morgan · Thu, Mar 29 2012 18:52:06
Randy Shilts’ book Andthe Band Played On was published in 1987. It’s the story of the start of AIDSin America.
A public healthparable, as told by Beth E. Meyerson:
“Two physicians observepeople floating down the Brown River. Some were alive and struggling, but witheyes glazed. The doctors spring into action, pulling as many people as possiblefrom the river. As the flow of bodies continues unabated, the epidemiologistjumps out of the water and begins to run upstream. Her colleague protests, “ForGod’s sake, help me save these people!” Instead, she ventures upstream to determinethe cause of this carnage.”
At over 600+ pages And the Band Played On is literally a heavy book, not to mention emotionally cumbersome. I knew before I startedreading it that many of its real-life characters would fall victim to thedisease, as did its author Randy Shilts, the first full-time reporterassigned to cover the AIDS beat.
While the American Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s & '70's was in full swing, across the world in Africa, Ebola struck but was quickly quashed. It was followed by another mysterious illness.
Sex had become arecreational sport, and with the advent of gay bath houses, a commercializedenterprise.
No one wants to be toldhow to live their lives or have their civil liberties trampled, but when risky sexual behavior put lives at risk, doctors,public health officials & other concerned citizens wanted to warn peoplethat they were harming themselves and others.
This was a difficult challengefor allies of the gay community & even gay doctors.
At first the gay community refused to acknowledge the problem.
From the beginning,writer Larry Kramer was living in New York, the epicenter, and watched thedisease grow and decimate. In a 2011 interview with CNN, Kramersaid, “Most people have not wanted to know the truths about AIDS.”
But back in 1981, beforeall this would be revealed, researchers at the CDC had no budget to hire thescientists needed to study the new disease or to buy the necessary labequipment.