When No Magic Bullet was first published in early 1985, the extent and consequences of the AIDS epidemic were far from clear. This remains true. But in the time since then a great deal has become clear. One thing is certain: the epidemic is a public health threat of great magnitude. AIDS is a disease which will be with us for some time; there will be no simple answers to the complex social and medical problems it poses. Contemporary events are dangerous ground for any historian, but the history of sexually transmitted diseases speaks clearly to the current health crisis and may serve to inform how we come to understand AIDS. This new edition thus has an added chapter which analyzes the meaning and impact of the early years of the AIDS epidemic and puts it in historical perspective.
AIDS, a terrifying and tragic epidemic, reminds us of the power of biological forces in determining the quality and meaning of human existence. These biological forces, however, are shaped and transformed by social and cultural forces. By examining attitudes and responses to the disease, we may be able to understand better the process by which disease is defined. And ultimately, this understanding may facilitate rational interventions that will slow and ultimately stop the course of this epidemic.
Cambridge, Massachusetts August 1986
A. M. B.