Exactly how the HIV virus traveled from the Caribbean to the United States in the 1970’s remains somewhat of a mystery. New cutting-edge study of archival blood samples from that era shows that Gaetan Dugas, a French-Canadian flight attendant, did not start the deadly outbreak which causes AIDS. New research conducted by a team of international scientists has been published in a recent issue of the “Nature” journal. Dr. Michael Worobey, co-author and professor of ecology at the University of Arizona, wrote that no one should be blamed for the origin.

He added that it could have been anyone of any nationality or even stemmed from blood products, noting that in the 70’s a large amount of blood products actually came from Haiti.

The AIDS epidemic

Even though great strides and progress have been made, there are still over 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention first documented cases in 1981, linking the immunodeficiency disease to sexual activity. After studying a cluster of gay men from California who were infected with HIV, researchers connected over 40 men throughout the U.S. to this network. Gaetan Dugas was among those in this network and labeled as “patient O” as in the letter. However, it was misconstrued as patient zero, which resulted in Dugas and his family being ostracized for years.

In Randy Shilt’s book “And the Band Played On,” Dugas was referred to as the sociopath who had numerous sexual partners. Once referred as the “Columbus of AIDS” by the “National Review,” Dugas died in 1984 from AIDS-related complications. Millions of lives have been lost over at least a 30-year span due to AIDS.

HIV’s arrival in the United States

After careful analysis of genomes, scientists were not able to find any biological evidence that Gaetan Dugas was responsible for spreading HIV in the United States. In fact, what was discovered in Dugas’ samples were typical of strains already in the country during that time. There is still the notion that HIV transmitted to humans after someone was infected by a chimpanzee in sub-Saharan Africa.

Regardless of how HIV arrived in America or any place else, eradication of the virus must remain first and foremost the main objective.