Many of you may already be aware of this, but this was new information to me just a few short weeks ago, so I thought I would share.
Edge Media Network reports, “Using sophisticated genetic techniques, an international team of scientists have managed to reconstruct exactly how HIV/AIDS arrived in the U.S. In doing so, they’ve exonerated the man who has long been blamed for bringing the pandemic to the West.
In a New York Times article, researchers cleared Patient Zero, aka Gaétan Dugas, a globe-trotting, sexually insatiable French Canadian flight attendant who supposedly picked up HIV in Haiti or Africa and spread it to dozens, even hundreds, of men before his death in 1984.
After a new genetic analysis of stored blood samples and some historical detective work, scientists declared innocent “The Man Who Gave Us AIDS,” as the New York Post once described him. The analysis showed that Dugas’ blood, sampled in 1983 contained a viral strain of HIV that was already infecting New York City men before he began visiting gay bars there after being hired in 1974 by Air Canada.
In fact, researchers even found that Dugas was never Patient Zero. In an early epidemiological study of cases, he was dubbed Patient O, for “outside Southern California,” where the study began.
They were able to painstakingly assemble the complete HIV genome from eight of the oldest-known samples, allowed the team to place them on a sort of “family tree” of the virus. What they discovered was that the virus was circulating in the US for a decade before what eventually became known as AIDS was recognized.
In fact, HIV had spread to Caribbean countries by around 1967, with the subtype arriving in New York by 1971 and reaching San Francisco by 1976.”
It is so unfortunate this man was vilified for so long, but not surprising. I remember the frenzy quite well, and how our entire community was suddenly being looked at with even further disgust.
We should take pride in the fact that we came together as a community during the AIDS epidemic and fought to educate, help those infected, and comfort those who needed it in their last days. We took something that was so grave and used it to show our strength, our resilience, and our sense of community.