Segments in this Video

Introduction: Killing Patient Zero (04:51)


Airline steward Gaetan Dugas was dubbed “Patient Zero” by doctors, dying of AIDS in 1984 at age 34. The media accused him of maliciously bringing the disease to America and spreading it intentionally.

Gay Vilification (09:19)

Experts share stories of stigmas and negative portrayals of homosexuals during the 1950s and 1960s. Villainous depictions prompt many to consider suicide. Dugas’s friends and coworkers state that he lacked normative internalized homophobia.

Liberty for Homosexuals (06:20)

Homosexuality was against the law before the Gay Liberation Movement demanded Civil Rights; the Stonewall Inn riots proved the community was willing to fight. Dugas represented the liberated gay man with his flamboyancy.

Expectations of Promiscuity (06:56)

Homosexuals describe New York in the 1970s as the “Golden Age,” with anonymous sex available in clubs and on streets. Dugas admitted he had different sexual partners nightly. AIDS activist Gordon Price explains how the lifestyle was not sustainable.

Gay Cancer (06:42)

Experts and Dugas’s friends recall the mislabeling of the AIDS epidemic. Physicians found increased rashes, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and other infections among young, gay males. Uncertainty regarding transmission led to paranoia, speculation, and vilification of the homosexual community.

Emerging Epidemic (09:43)

Dr. William W. Darrow’s research into homosexual behavior led him to conduct case studies connected by sexual contact. Fifty-six people reported Dugas a partner and potential source of disease to the Centers for Disease Control. By mid-1982, researchers referred to the contagion as AIDS.

Sociopolitical Regression (07:24)

Dugas spoke about his afflictions with Dr. Selma Dritz who advised him to stop having sex. Dugas did not accept that the illness resulted or spread through sexual contact. AIDS prompted the return of stigmas and vilification of gay communities while the government largely ignored problems.

Cluster Study (09:21)

Dugas’s work with the CDC allowed Darrow to construct case clusters in California and New York. The work was presented at the Vancouver AIDS Forum, where doctors recommended decreasing the number of sexual partners. Dugas accused them of fear mongering.

Administrative Failures (09:28)

After Dugas died in 1984, the Cluster Study was released, convincing all that AIDS was sexually transmitted. Originally dubbed Patient 57, Dugas became known as Patient Zero. Randy Shilts publicized the epidemic and Dugas's role in its spread in “And The Band Played On.”

“And The Band Played On” (07:20)

After Dugas’s sexual network was publicized, the "New York Post" published an article furthering misconceptions and vilifying Patient Zero. Shilt’s intent was to get institutions to respond to the AIDS epidemic. Ronald Reagan’s speech addressing the matter occurred after thousands were dead or dying.

Epidemic Scapegoat (09:19)

Doctors and professors discuss flaws of the Cluster Study, finding it inaccurate in determining AIDS’ origins. Dugas’s promiscuity and compliance with the medical community made it easy to blame him for the epidemic, but his work helped determine how the disease was transmitted.

Dugas's True Legacy (08:21)

By the time the first five cases were reported, 250,000 gay men were HIV infected. When AIDS was discovered, 500,000 gay men were sick. The epidemic is credited with gaining marriage rights for the community; Dugas’s coworkers and friends speak to his kindness and human value.

Credits: Killing Patient Zero (02:51)

Credits: Killing Patient Zero

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Killing Patient Zero

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Spanning the 1970s until today, the story of Gaétan Dugas – aka ‘Patient Zero’ – serves as the perfect microcosm of the evolution of AIDS in America and the country’s response to it. In the early 1980s, little was known about this global epidemic, except that it seemed to be most prevalent amongst gay men. America was in the grip of fear and uncertainty and, in the scramble for answers, Dugas would become known and vilified as ‘Patient Zero’. Exploring timely themes about fear, the demonising of the unknown and the danger of false narratives, this Fadoo Productions and Fine Point Films documentary weaves social history and scientific investigation into a poignant story of an individual who became intrinsically and tragically linked with AIDS.

Length: 99 minutes

Item#: BVL237719

ISBN: 978-1-63722-313-0

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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