HomePoliticsGay politics1987. Book: And the Band Played On


1987. Book: And the Band Played On — 2 Comments

  1. It’s true that Shilts strongly advocated closing San Francisco’s bathhouses, a measure many saw as counterproductive and reactionary. But in fairness, he was outraged by the callous indifference of many bathhouse owners who refused to do anything to prevent the spread of the disease. When I interviewed him in 1983 he said some bathhouse owners denied that any of their customers were at risk and wouldn’t allow educational materials to be displayed for fear of scaring away business and reducing revenue. We also discussed the fact that some gay leaders saw AIDS primarily as a public relations problem and felt that addressing it would be akin to airing the gay community’s dirty laundry. Of course, those attitudes changed as the number of AIDS cases doubled every six months. My understanding is that Shilts didn’t take the HIV test until after he finished the book. In the time before there were any effective treatments, it wasn’t unusual for gay men to opt against getting tested. I think most of us who came out in places like L.A., N.Y. and S.F. in the 1970s assumed we were infected, which added a sense of urgency to our lives and work. Shilts was an enormously talented journalist with an uncompromising sense of justice. Thanks for posting this.

    • Thanks for your contribution David. It’s great to have this level of insight into Randy Shilts as well as the political/community dynamics behind the early days of the AIDS crisis. Colin

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