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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

And the Band Played On

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 15 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3637
  1. Birte Twisselmann, web editor, BMJ
  1. btwisselmann{at}

In these days of swine flu, rapid response programmes to outbreaks of communicable disease, and digital communications technology, it is easy to forget there was a time when communication about epidemics did without mobile phones, email, or social media. Antiretroviral treatment may now be widely available in the West, but when HIV and AIDS first appeared in the United States and Europe, the ensuing pandemic left experts baffled, and exacted a heavy toll. The US alone had more than 65 000 cases by 1988. Were this to happen today the panic would be unimaginable.

The late Randy Shilts’s 1987 classic, And the Band Played On, encyclopaedically chronicles the events from the death of the Danish doctor Grethe Rask in …

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