When I was a teenager in government high skool, I had to watch the movie And the Band Played On in health class. At the time, I didn’t really care much for it save for the fact that I was getting a break from the monotony that is school.
The movie itself was decent. It had an all-star cast of actors throughout and fortunately did not have any gay sex scenes, although there was plenty implied. I’m sure it would not have been shown if it did. These days I wonder if people would complain about the lack of gay sex scenes in such a movie.
After we watched the movie, our gym teacher than discussed it with us. By discussion, she meant stand on a soapbox and announce that the government didn’t do enough to stop the spread of AIDS in the 1980s. It was pretty much the only time she got self-righteous.
And it was annoying.
The premise of the story behind the movie was that the government did little to nothing to halt the spread of AIDS among the gay community. While there were moments in the film where scientists got into a dispute over the nature of the HIV virus, it largely focused on tracking down gay men and equating the “outbreak” with the first Ebola outbreak in the 1970s.
On top of that, there was a very huge pro-gay streak in the movie as the beginning showing some old raisin man asking the Democratic party to be acknowledged “as a people”. It really had nothing to do with the movie itself.
Despite this, it was a good portrayal of the spread of AIDS in the 1980s. Randy Shilts, the man who wrote the book the movie was based on actually, had a more balanced observation of the whole outbreak, especially considering he was to die from the disease years after his book was published. He supported the closure of the gay bathhouses in order to slow the spread of the disease. But he was also critical of the Federal government and their failure to stop the spread of the disease.
The truth is, stopping the spread of AIDS in the gay community requires killing the male libido among gay men. Not that gay men have a higher libido than straight men, just that gay men have less restrictions when it comes to getting sex from another man.
For a man to have sex with a woman, he is usually beholden to many demands and repercussions (pregnancy, child support, etc.) which make heterosexual sex a much larger risk than gay sex. The only thing that gay men have to concern themselves with is possible emotional attachments and sexually transmitted diseases. But straight men have these same issues plus the extra baggage that comes with dealing with the modern women.
So of course gay men are going to have a lot more sex than straight men because men like to have sex. And with that premise in mind we have to assume that the spread of AIDS among the gay community was largely because gay men had lots of anonymous sex with each other.
No speeches from President Ronald Reagan could have stopped it. No direct action from the government short of total isolation of gay men into individual cubes could have stopped it. And we all know that was impossible, even if the United States was a totalitarian state.
The movie never bothered to address the simple fact that the rampant sexual practices of gay men was the primary reason for the spread of the disease. Instead of addressing this simple fact, the government as portrayed by the movie simply allowed it to continue without criticism because the gay lifestyle in the San Francisco Castro district was portrayed as good.
Now, even if the government officials involved flat out told all the gay community that they needed to engage in much safer sexual practices by using condoms and having monogamous sexual relations, such pleas would have fallen on deaf ears. Gay men are not known for accepting criticism of their lifestyle gently or with quiet dignity. As any one has observed in the past few decades, any criticism of the gay lifestyle has been met with harsh counter-criticism and accusations of “homophobia”.
Randy Shilts himself was ostracized from the gay community in San Francisco because of his stance on closing the gay bathhouses. A man who lived among them and shared their sexual escapades was kicked out for expressing what was essentially a common sense view on the problem.
What I got out of that movie was nothing more than the realization that the true reason for the spread of AIDS among gay men was entirely the fault of gay men. They were the ones who, by and large, defied the sound advice of government officials and prominent members of their own community in favor of a debauched and damaging sexual lifestyle. They wanted the party to keep on going in spite of the fact that the party was killing them off.
In short, it was gay hedonism that spread AIDS, not a lack of attention from the government.