File Size: 2214 KB
Print Length: 660 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Revised edition (November 27, 2007)
Publication Date: November 27, 2007
Throughout the book which palpable tension between the medical and political arenas as they grapple with (or try to ignore) the disease. Anyone who agitates to cut government spending by getting rid of or sharply reducing the forces of the Center for Illness Control (CDC) should be required to read this book. Although there are a number of characters among the characters, the CDC--with its intelligence, tenaciousness, and compassion--heads the list. At the beginning, it seemed that a couple of CDC experts were the only people who cared, and they also were among the very few that sensed the illness was more likely to become an pandemic. To essentially foresee the future--but to not be able to convince others of the reality--must have been nightmarish.
The history successfully blends a number of elements: competitive jealousies within the scientific community (it's likely that the French actually discovered the AIDS virus, despite a neck-in-neck US researcher who claimed the glory), the politics of the slow-moving National Institutes of Health (NIH), Reagan's stubborn refusal to address the AIDS issue (he finally succeeded six years after the epidemic began--and after 20, 850 citizens had died), and a number of incredibly touching stories of men and women with the condition. One thing I hadn't known was the schism within the gay community: a lot of people knowing the reality of the threat while others (understandably) discounted this internalized homophobia or as a homophobic attempt at sexual clampdown, dominance.
Ultimately--when all the medical and political wrangling is stripped away--the book is about people facing AIDS during a time when it was a horrible death phrase. In looking over this account, one can't help but have compassion for all patients everywhere whose end of life includes ostracism, derision, and shaming. Yet, despite the dire circumstances, there was also love and empathy. Selfless nurses volunteered to work the AIDS product, even when the condition was still somewhat of a mystery. The Shanti Task was a grassroots effort that maintained the sick and the dying by providing housing, medical care, friendship, and emotional support. This guide captures a period with time where, in the midst of sometimes slow-moving science, second-class-citizen politics, and a seemingly indifferent larger society, some dedicated people fought to raise awareness, to improve habits, and others, to face death with equanimity., This white hot memoir of the discovery of the AIDS virus and the race for the recognition is a agonizing indictment of American inactivité and an aloof Reagan administration. The " Butcher's Bill, " the tally of deaths to AIDS, is a steady drumbeat in each chapter as LGBT activists on the ground race to care for the dying as bureaucracy hampers research and recognition for the virus. Shilts, who eventually succumbed to the virus, does not pretend to report individually, but rather as a member from the crew of men most vulnerable. Of particular interest is the stylistic difference in the way East Coast LGBT organizations differed from their counterparts in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Some of Shilts' details have been criticized in recent years, but for a ground report this is indespensible.
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