HIV Arrived in U.S. Long Before ‘Patient Zero’

The man who was identified as "patient zero" for the HIV epidemic in the U.S. was wrongly accused, according to a new scientific discovery. Officials on Wednesday declared Gaétan Dugas innocent of that claim. Instead, the strain responsible for nearly all AIDS cases in the country was carried from Zaire to Haiti in the late 1960s, and it spread from there to New York City in 1971. The same strain spread to San Francisco in 1976. Dugas hadn't even visited gay bars in New York until 1974, when he accepted a job for Air Canada. Dugas's blood was sampled in 1983, and officials now know that the viral strain present in his sample was already infecting men in New York before he arrived. Dugas was a flight attendant who died in 1984 after years of traveling on flights all over the world and having a myriad of sexual encounters, including in Haiti and several African countries. In the 1980s, The New York Post ran a picture of him under the headline “The Man Who Gave Us AIDS,” and he was blamed for sparking the entire epidemic in the U.S., which has now killed more than 500,000 Americans.