April 20, 1953|
|Died||March 30, 1984
Quebec City, Quebec
|Other names||"Patient Zero"|
|Known for||Alleged patient zero for AIDS|
Gaëtan Dugas (French: [ɡaetɑ̃ dyˈɡa]; April 20, 1953 – March 30, 1984) was a French Canadian who worked for Air Canada as a flight attendant. Dugas became notorious as the alleged patient zero for AIDS, though he is now more accurately regarded as one of many highly sexually active men who spread HIV widely before the disease was identified.
Patient Zero allegation
A study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 1984 traced many of New York City's early HIV infections to an unnamed infected homosexual male flight attendant. Epidemiologists hypothesized that Dugas had carried the virus out of Africa and introduced it into the Western gay community.
Dugas is featured prominently in Randy Shilts's book And the Band Played On, which documents the outbreak of AIDS in the United States. Shilts portrays Gaëtan Dugas as having almost sociopathic behavior by allegedly intentionally infecting, or at least recklessly endangering, others with the virus. Dugas is described as being a charming, handsome sexual athlete who, according to his own estimation, averaged hundreds of sex partners a year. He claims to have had over 2,500 sexual partners across North America since becoming sexually active in 1972. In addition, Dugas was legally married in Los Angeles on June 27, 1977 in an illegal attempt to receive United States citizenship.
According to Snopes.com:
Dugas appeared to move between denial that whatever he had could be transmitted sexually ("Of course I'm going to have sex. Nobody's proven to me that you can spread cancer"), depraved indifference to his partners' wellbeing ("It's their duty to protect themselves. They know what's going on out there. They've heard about this disease"), and a desire to take others with him ("I've got gay cancer. I'm going to die and so are you").
The "Patient Zero" term arose in March 1984 after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. The CDC began tracking the sexual liaisons and practices of homosexual men in California, New York, and some other states. As Dugas was found to be the center of a network of sexual partners, he was dubbed "patient 0."
Analysis and criticism
Genetic analysis of HIV provides some support for the Patient Zero theory. Dugas is now believed to be part of a cluster of homosexual men who traveled frequently, were extremely sexually active, and died of AIDS at a very early stage in the epidemic.
However, a number of authorities have since voiced reservations about the implications of the CDC Patient Zero study, and characterisations of Dugas as being responsible for bringing HIV to cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the patient zero study, the average length of time between sexual contact and the onset of symptoms was 10.5 months. While Shilts's book does not make such an allegation, the rumour that Dugas was the principal disseminator of the virus became widespread. In 1988, Andrew R. Moss published an opposing view in the New York Review of Books.
A November 2007 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences dismisses the Patient Zero hypothesis and claims that AIDS was transmitted from Africa to Haiti in 1966 and from Haiti to the United States in 1969.
- (French) "La découverte de la maladie — Sida, les premières années" (Discovering the illness — AIDS, the first years), Radio-Canada, 17 January 1992
- Auerbach, D.M.; W.W. Darrow, H.W. Jaffe, and J.W. Curran (1984). "Cluster of cases of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Patients linked by sexual contact". The American Journal of Medicine 76 (3): 487–92. doi:10.1016/0002-9343(84)90668-5. PMID 6608269.
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point. Little Brown. p. 21. ISBN 0-316-34662-4.
- Mikkelson, Barbara (2006-10-06). "AIDS Mary". Snopes.com.
- Shilts, Randy (1988). And The Band Played On. Penguin. p. 439. ISBN 0-14-011130-1.
- Kuiken, C; Thakallapalli R, Esklid A, de Ronde A (2000-11-01). "Genetic analysis reveals epidemiologic patterns in the spread of human immunodeficiency virus". American Journal of Epidemiology (Los Alamos National Laboratory) 152 (9): 814–22. doi:10.1093/aje/152.9.814. PMID 11085392.
- Moss, Andrew R. "AIDS Without End", The New York Review of Books, December 8, 1988, retrieved December 2, 2006
- AIDS virus invaded U.S. from Haiti: study
- The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas and beyond.
- Kolata, Gina (28 October 1987). "Boy's 1969 Death Suggests AIDS Invaded U.S. Several Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
- Halifax Rainbow Encyclopedia page for Dugas -- he lived in Halifax for several years.
- Gaëtan Dugas at Find a Grave