Thanks for the reminder; I’ve been meaning to read this as it’s been recommended as a true depiction of the AIDS debacle.
Patient Zero Biography
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Patient Zero Biography
Term used to refer to the individual who first introduced the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a fatal transmissible disease of the immune system — into the United States.
The first cases of AIDS were identified in 1981 in Los Angeles, California; HIV itself was isolated in 1983. Most of the early victims of AIDS in the United States were either homosexual men (who generally contracted HIV through sexual contact) or intravenous drug users (who contracted the virus through sharing infected hypodermic needles). Ensuing research revealed that HIV is contracted mostly through exposure to contaminated bodily fluids, such as blood, semen and other genital secretions, and breast milk. As of 1996, AIDS had killed six million people worldwide, and it was estimated that 750,000 individuals in the U.S. and 23 million worldwide were infected with HIV. Presently, the main method of HIV transmission is heterosexual intercourse, which accounts for 70 percent of cases worldwide.
Early research into the AIDS epidemic rested on the assumption that a few people, possibly a single individual, had unwittingly brought the virus into North America. As the homosexual community was the first large group in North America to be affected by the disease (it was at first mistakenly dubbed the “gay cancer”), researchers at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta found a probable candidate within that community — one man who could be connected, through his sexual liaisons and those of his various lovers, to 41 of the first 248 cases of AIDS identified in the United States. The CDC referred to this man as “Patient Zero.”
In his book about the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On (1987), the journalist Randy Shilts identified Patient Zero as a French-Canadian airline steward named Gaetan Dugas. Officials of the CDC subsequently confirmed Shilts’ identification. According to their research, Dugas developed Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of skin cancer often seen in AIDS victims, in June 1980. He later had intercourse with “by his own estimate” 250 partners a year until his death in 1984. The CDC linked Dugas with nine of the first 19 cases in Los Angeles as well as the first two cases in New York City and 41 cases in all. From the beginning, the CDC’s Patient Zero theory was extremely controversial and questions still remain about its viability.