Friday, December 2, 2016

AIDS "Patient Zero" Was Wrongly Accused

For many years, it was believed that the first outbreak of AIDS in the U.S. was triggered by just one person, dubbed "patient zero". That belief was popularized by Randy Shilts's best-selling book And The Band Played On, published in 1987. Patient zero was allegedly Gaetan Dugas, a French-Canadian flight attendant who was thought to have picked up H.I.V. in Haiti sometime in the late 1970s. Mr. Dugas died of AIDS in 1984. After his death Mr. Dugas was vilified by the media; a 1987 New York Post headline called him "The Man Who Gave Us AIDS".

The myth of "patient zero" persisted for almost 20 years. It wasn't until 2014 that careful detective work provided convincing evidence that HIV actually arrived in New York City around 1971 and was well established in the U.S. before Mr. Dugas became infected. And just recently, DNA analysis of a sample of Mr. Dugas's stored blood confirmed that he was not the infamous "patient zero", if indeed there ever was one.

Mr. Dugas was not the villain he was made out to be, despite the fact that he continued to be sexually active after he became infected. He deserves our belated apology.

No comments: