H.I.V. Arrived in the U.S. Long Before ‘Patient Zero’

Oct 31, 2016

By Donald G. McNeil Jr.

In the tortuous mythology of the AIDS epidemic, one legend never seems to die: Patient Zero, a.k.a. Gaétan Dugas, a globe-trotting, sexually insatiable French Canadian flight attendant who supposedly picked up H.I.V. in Haiti or Africa and spread it to dozens, even hundreds, of men before his death in 1984.

Mr. Dugas was once blamed for setting off the entire American AIDS epidemic, which traumatized the nation in the 1980s and has since killed more than 500,000 Americans. The New York Post even described him with the headline “The Man Who Gave Us AIDS.”

But after a new genetic analysis of stored blood samples, bolstered by some intriguing historical detective work, scientists on Wednesday declared him innocent.

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6 comments on “H.I.V. Arrived in the U.S. Long Before ‘Patient Zero’

  • What a nice (if this word is even allowed in this context) example for two things:
    1) Be very, very careful when you play the ‘blame game’. And therefore, think twice before you support the death sentence.
    2) Science has built-in correction methods, when done right. That is one of its most important strenghts, but it may take a lot of patience (as in this case). Hoorah to researchers who were willing to question what was considered a truth by many in their field!

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  • 4
    fadeordraw says:

    An interesting story. I myself become immediately skeptical when a single source is identified for a contagion (though often good literature-story telling). It’s just too close to our evolutionary meme bent toward monotheism. On the actual planet, it most likely aint gonna work that way. I didn’t give the Gaétan Dugas story much truck when it came out. On the monotheism/single source theme, I did spend some time internet searching with doubt about a single source for sapiens. All I founds was that pyramids were built on various continents without a trace of how the how- to knowledge came from a single source. Maybe sapiens were gene/meme programmed to build pyramids when certain conditions occur, thus explaining the non-single source for the multiple outbreak of pyramids every so often and on various continents.

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  • Maybe sapiens were gene/meme programmed to build pyramids when certain conditions occur

    That’s a nice way to express it. At first I thought, no, that’s wrong, a pyramid is an obviously easy design to get something tall that won’t fall over, but then, on second thoughts, it’s only obvious to me, one of the species that would be carrying that hypothetical gene/meme program. Ants don’t seem to see it that way at all. Or trees, for that matter. Or corals.

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  • 6
    fadeordraw says:

    5 Ohooligan; thanks and just to note, making pyramids, or proper pyramids, with equal side bases and equal slopes and the stone and labour management involved, is all quite highly complicated; requiring, minimally for sapiens, applied cognitive math and likely written planning; unlike bees, ants, though desert termite structures are my favourite comparison to NYC towers. And the neat things, as said, is the pyramids constructions appear to have been independently done in, at the time, non-communicative continents. Also Amoebas likely sprang from several primordial soups, tether than a single one.

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