Nearly 30 years after its initial publication, "And the Band Played On" is the definitive book of the early years of the AIDS crisis and how it all went wrong. There were problems on several fronts.
One was the anti-gay campaign led by people like Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly. Another was the bigotry of corporate America. A third was warfare between Congress and the Reagan White House to appropriate funds for research into the disease. A fourth was the battle between the CDC and the National Cancer Institute over who should take the lead in research. And fifth was competition between Atlanta and a lab in Paris over who actually discovered HIV first.
But just as surprising was the attitude taken by the gay community, especially in San Francisco. They opposed virtually every common sense measure that would have slowed down the spread of the disease within its own numbers; including the regulation of bathhouses, safe sex information distribution, and the screening of blood products - all were seen as violations of human rights. Also of note was Patient Zero, a Canadian flight attendant who slept with as many as 2000 men and who wasn't stopped in part because he thought he was invincible.
The bottom lines were if people saw this for what it was early on, AIDS could have been contained and even eliminated, rather than become the worldwide pandemic it became, spreading to the heterosexual population (in particular hemophiliacs) in no time flat. And that it took the deaths of people like Rock Hudson, Liberace and even Roy Cohn for people to wake up and realize what should have been done to begin with.