By the time Rock Hudson's death in 1985 alerted all America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation, killing thousands of people and emerging as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. America faced a troubling question: What happened? How was this epidemic allowed to spread so far before it was taken seriously?
In answering these questions, Shilts weaves the disparate threads into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction at the highest levels of the medical, political, and media establishments. Shilts shows that the epidemic spread wildly because the federal government put budget ahead of the nation's welfare; health authorities placed political expediency before the public health; and scientists were often more concerned with international prestige than saving lives.
Against this backdrop, Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced. And the Band Played On is both a tribute to these heroic people and a stinging indictment of the institutions that failed the nation so badly.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Randy Shilts' book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Larry Kramer about the life and work of Randy Shilts – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.
This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
©1987 Randy Shilts (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"The most thorough, comprehensive exploration of the AIDS epidemic to date.... It is fascinating, frightening, and essential reading." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"And the Band Played On is about the kind of people we have been for the past seven years. That is its terror, and its strength." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A heroic work of journalism." (The New York Times)
Shocking, well-told story
The constant conflicts between truth and politics (and money) are just unbelievable--what people did to "protect" their interests while scores of people died is unthinkable, yet it happened.
It's all my favorite.
I was constantly astounded by the infighting of the various factions that put their own interests in front of public health--and that at times the public's health was completely ignored. The very fact that the blood banks denied there could possibly be a threat was the ultimate triumph of "looking good" over public health and common sense.
I tried to read this book many years ago and never made it through even the first few chapters. Listening to it instead made it so much more accessible. Unputdownable!
This book was one of the most interesting non-fiction stories I've encountered in a long time. I was shocked by how little of this story I knew considering that I was alive during the time it was being shaped- it really reinforces the point that is made repeatedly that the media simply ignored what should have been a HUGE story because it affected mainly the gay community. In hindsight, it is simply incredible to hear about stupid, short-sighted decisions made by scientists, journalists, politicians, and even members of the most affected communities. Decisions made because of simple denial, which lead to many avoidable deaths. This includes 2) the shocking decision of blood banks to simply ignore evidence that HIV was a blood-born viral agent, leading to infection of people receiving blood transfusions, 3) the absurdly counter-intuitive decision of scientists and policymakers in the U.S. to ignore or dispute cases of infection in hemophiliacs, IV drug users, children of infected mothers, and those receiving blood transfusions, 4) the intentional under-funding of AIDS research by the Reagan administration despite efforts by Congress to provide additional funding, and 5) decisions by some gay leaders and public health officials to focus almost entirely on civil liberties issues and ignore attempts to curb the rate of infection.
It was also pretty embarrassing as an American to read about the underhanded and dishonest efforts by scientist Robert Gallo to take credit for the work of French scientists, even including fraud- all while ignoring the fact that these shenanigans affected a real epidemic that was claiming real lives.
Shilts is not an objective journalist, often using language that is conclusory and inflammatory. He doesn't just present facts that clearly illustrate that politicians and scientists didn't care about AIDS (then called GRID) because they believed it only affected homosexuals- he says it. And he says it repeatedly. I realize that this rubs a lot of people (particularly journalists) the wrong way because journalists are supposed to be objective in a "just the facts, ma'am" kind of way. Everyone once in a while this grated on me a bit too, but honestly I couldn't get too upset about it because it was pretty hard to draw any conclusion OTHER than Shilts's from the conduct of those described. As a result, the indignation and anger over the recklessness of scientists, public officials, and community leaders felt justified and it didn't bother me as much as it would have in another journalistic context.
The one thing I disagreed with was the continual implication that Gaetan Dugas was the reason the epidemic spread so fast. While I'm sure that Dugas did spread the disease to many, many people, the focus on him in the book unfairly presents him as a sort of villain for the story when he was hardly alone in his continuing to have sex long after he should have considering his diagnosis. I thought Dugas's story was fascinating, and representative of HOW the virus spread so fast within the gay community and masked the obvious truth that no virus targets one sexual orientation over another; however, that was a set of dots that Shilts didn't really focus on. He clearly felt compelled by anger to find fault with various figures (including Dugas) rather than to note and elaborate on the fact that the disease being identified with the gay community was due only to the tragic coincidence that the lethal virus got introduced into the gay community at the exact time that promiscuity was widespread in reaction to the new-found freedom gay men were experiencing at the same exact time. I was ok with Shilts crossing the line of journalistic objectivity when the conclusions he was voicing were fairly obvious, but what he implied regarding Dugas seemed more personal and less fact-driven.
The narrator was perfect for the material- he tone really matches the tone of the text, bias and all.
This book is meticulously researched by a reporter who followed the entire story from beginning to end. And he pulls no punches - there is plenty of blame to go around. Politicians, gay leadership, scientists, journalists, business people, they all contributed to the crisis that was AIDS in the 1980s.
Shilts unravels the story piece by piece. What keeps you listening is the "And what happened next?" pacing. He brings to life the heroes and humans. It's truly a masterpiece and I thank Audible for producing this work. Without Audible the Audible Modern Vanguard publishing house, this work would not exist in this format.
Rarely has an 80 hour book so completely captured me. I swallowed this book in large chunks over a couple of weeks. I'm in the process of re-listening at a slower pace. If you are old enough to remember the Reagan administration, I believe this book will capture you as well.
This book is a highly informative and deeply moving. Its relevance extends beyond the AIDS crisis to public health (and other political) issues generally.
Shilts managed to write three of the most important works of nonfiction touching on gay people in the twentieth century. This book is one that is so carefully researched and intelligently presented that it really brings one into the complex mindsets that pervaded the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
It's broad in its geographical scope, yet stunningly personal, too. It shows us that the people who fought for the rights of people with aids often fought bitterly among themselves. It reveals the horrendous complacency and silence of the Reagan administration that might well be characterized as criminally negligent.
Shilts himself would succumb to AIDS not so many years after the events chronicled in this book. It stands as a living monument to his intelligence and humanity. It's a book everyone should read.
The definitive book mirroring the early days of the AIDS crisis. The late Randy Shilts details the disease from the points of view of the medical investigators, the press, the public and most painfully those who lived with the ravages of the virus. Looking back on the crisis from the vantage of medical advancements and the deaths that came too soon, one can only wonder what might have been. Sad and enlightening, I highly recommend this classic. It's history we must learn from.
I am obsessed with learning. Either about history of society, epidemiology or spirituality. I would say I'm a seeker.
Absolutely; brilliant look at the world at that time, the outbreak and who and how it affected people.
I loved how it showed the lives of people but my favorite part was hearing about how the virus moved, what symptoms and subsequent illnesses it caused. I love hearing about HOW viruses work.
They were all really well done.
Moving, unforgettable, a look into the world at a painful time that forever changed the world.
Really worth the read.
Had forgotten how incredible this story is. As everyone mentioned, I was the HBO movie and it really touched me. I was an 80’s child and remember the ‘scramble’ that the discovery caused; my mom was freaking out because she enjoyed the 70’s. :o) I was disappointed to learn about the presidents lack of concern. At least all of that has changed. It took several weeks of course. I had to stop and listen to another book for awhile; had to get away from the frank language and the denial.
This book took me quite a long time to get through but I also found it hard to put down and often stayed up late listening.
I was born around the time the AIDS epidemic broke out so although I grew up knowing about it, I had no idea how complicated and difficult it was to not only figure out what was happening, but to find the funding and resources to make any sort of effort to stop it. Now as an adult, I am a scientist and I mostly work through government/NIH grants so learning about the funding issues and the bickering between researchers was particularly fascinating to me.
The story itself is heartfelt and the author does a good job of giving a human feel to the histories. I cried at points. However, the author doesn't stray too far from facts and makes an effort to keep this book honest.
I can't say much about the narration. He blends into the background which is not a bad thing. He does a fine job considering that the structure of the book is somewhat dry. He annunciates very clearly and I ended up able to listen to much of the book on 3x speed which made it easier to get through such a long book.
This books paints an incredibly vivid picture of the first few decades of the AIDS crisis in American cities, intertwining personal, artistic, scientific, and political perspectives. It is completely worth listening to, but be prepared - it's a huge time investment.
"Comprehensive and interesting"
Good social history using real life stories as a narrative structure. I was interested in the epidemiology of the disease as it emerged but also learned alot about gay rights in 1980s USA. Astonished at how late blood transfusion was recognised as transmitting virus, found this shocking and a lessen to UK on verge of privatising blood banks. The narrator is fine, no silly voices or over-acting. Highly recomended.
"A real time capsule"
Shilts offers a first hand report of AIDS hitting the newly liberated gay communities of San Francisco and New York at the start of the 80s and goes on to provide a masterpiece of journalism encompassing the reaction of community leaders, the community itself, scientists, politicians, journalists and the US healthcare industry in the shape of hospitals and blood banks. It works as a tragedy, an epidemiological who-done-it, history and drama. Most of the players don't come out of it with unblemished reputations, Ronald Reagan, the blood banks and Dr Robert Gallo being disreputable stand-outs amongst stiff competition. It's gripping, infuriating and touching in equal measure and a great listen but you'll need to be ready to listen to a lot of material about fisting, rimming and the extremely lively bath-house scene. Not my bag particularly but for all sorts of reasons it's entirely appropriate that the book deals with them frankly.
I had some personal questions about the way Shilts flips from reporting verifiable facts to offering us the thoughts of some of the protagonists which I'm struggling to see how he'd know. I was also occasionally irked by the narrator's very dramatic style which seemed to be trying offer Shilts' reporting an additional emotional umph that it didn't really require. These are all small things though. It's no plot spoiler to say (because it doesn't appear in the book) that Shilts opted not to be tested for AIDS until the book was complete in order to avoid biasing his reporting. He was diagnosed shortly after its completion and died in 1994. So this is a real monument to his talent.
"Superb piece of journalism"
Full insight into american AIDS history.
Book is not 79 hours long, its about 32 hours long, wish Audible would correct that. I fell for the trick as I'm a sucker for a very long listens. However, the book was well worth it.
Very well performed, produced and edited.
The book is informative and often shocking. Revealing the flaws in early HIV/AIDS policy in the US from the first diagnosis to Reagan's first official speech on the subject.
the audiobook although detailed moves swiftly around the different organisations and people as the epidemic unfolds.
Sympathetic without being mawkish the book brings home the tragedy of the disease.
Not just a LGBT, a book for anyone interested.
A real eye opener funny in places heart breaking in others. I had no idea how awful AIDS really was this gives some idea of the suffering but the real tragedy was the response of different groups,; government, health care, the gay community everyone.
Well worth a read
Fascinating background to the origin of aids in the US. Slightly ranty, and overlooking on some detail, but generally very good stab at an important topic
Radiolabs patient zero podcast was the reason for listening to this and I'm so glad it spiked my curiosity. Patient zero isn't really the story here. Political indifference and negligence along with public apathy is staggering. Times have changed thank goodness. Randy Shilts is a hero
"The Story of AIDS in America"
This story will make you cry and be furious mostly at the same time. In telling the story of the spread of AIDS in America, Randy Shilts exposes the denial at the heart of the AIDS epidemic. It's a complicated story but worth sticking with even though it doesn't lead to a happy ending. It's a book you can't forget in a hurry.
Shilts uses the personal stories of those who were affected by AIDS, not just gay men, but Doctors and Scientists and people infected via blood projects. This makes sure that the wider story of indifference and denial is always gounded in personal stories.
"Thought provoking, fascinating listen"
Loved this, listened to it twice and may listen again. Fabulously written which kept your interest the entire time. The narration was also fabulous. Highly recommend.
"A great piece of Journalism. Superb"
I have quite a collection of books downloaded now from Audible and this is certainly one of, if not, my favourite listen so far. Its not an easy listen by any means, as it details the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Randy Shilts covers the story from every angle to the point where it reads like a detective novel. Everyone is a player in the grand scheme from the scientist, politicians, business owners and the gay community itself. The human story is told throughout too and its saddening to hear key players contracting the disease. The social history was a reminder of my own past.
As an audio book I have to point out that the 126 hour running length is a typo mistake and its actually "only" 26 hours. Personally, I found the story flew by. Also, I have to highly praise the narrator for a brilliant job. As an English listener I tend to find American readers a bit distracting but Victor Bevine read it beautifully.
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