Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

And the Band played on

About two years ago I read about a book written by Randy Shilts in which the background and history of the AIDS epidemic was described in great detail. Anyone interested to know what happened in those early years when the first people started dying of an unknown disease, should read his excellent book, And the Band played on. Shortly after buying the book I found out that it had also been made into an equally excellent movie with the same name. At that time it was quite a struggle to get a copy of the DVD (I eventually succeeded in getting a copy), but I see that it is now freely available on Amazon.com.
The past two days we had some friends who stayed over. Two of them are involved with Operation Mobilisation’s AIDS-Hope program and they wanted to visit our ministry in Swaziland to see for themselves what we are doing there. The third person is an engineer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States who will be joining our ministry in Swaziland until June 2008. Yesterday we spent the day driving through the entire southern region of Swaziland to help them get the feeling of what we are doing in our AIDS Home-Based Caring program. Last night they asked if I could show them the DVD, And the Band played on.
I’ve seen this movie about four or five times. What touched me once again was the callousness with which the problem was approached in those early years. For quite some time it was seen merely as a gay disease, known at that time as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) and for that reason very few people were really concerned to find the cause of the disease or to find a cure. It was only after it was found that women within heterosexual relationships were also being infected and more especially when it was found that a high number of haemophiliacs had acquired the disease through blood transfusions, that scientists started working towards finding the cause of the disease.
But there is another dark side to the history, because both the book and the movie reveals the extreme jealousy between the medical research centres in the United States and France, where both were in a race to see who would be able to isolate the virus first and in such a way obtain the glory (and also possibly the Nobel prize). I really felt sick again as I watched the movie last night, realising if those who had the knowledge and the money in the early years of the disease had only made the right decisions, thinking less about themselves and more of other people, the disease might have been contained in time. But alas, it didn’t happen.
As I watched the movie last night I asked myself how many things are happening today in the fight against HIV/AIDS that we have no knowledge off – things which may be exposed in ten or fifteen years time and to which people may react by saying: If only we had done things differently in 2007, the problem may have been smaller today.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - Posted by | HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Short-term outreaches, Social issues, Support teams, Swaziland


  1. Im glad someone decided to write about this. I am compiling a list of establishments in Milwaukee that actually care about people. If you would like to add to the list, please do.

    Comment by Benjamin | Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Benjamin,
    Would you want Tim’s details to make contact with him or just to put it on some list? What information do you need?

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, November 8, 2007 | Reply

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