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Understanding the History of HIV

On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith explores the story of Gaetan Dugas, a man who was long blamed for precipitating the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The vilification of Dugas had nothing to do with science; instead he was dubbed “patient zero” in a misinterpretation of his study moniker “patient O” (for Outside). Dugas’ portrayal in the media turned him into a modern Typhoid Mary, but he was not an originator of the U.S. epidemic, as a 2007 molecular analysis proved and a new paper in Nature confirms. Smith writes “This is the real scandal and lingering tragedy of Dugas. His story was used to stoke fear of HIV-infected individuals, and especially gay men, as predators seeking to take others down with them.” Does science finally have the clout to revisit such an entrenched media narrative?

In other news, The Verge reports on a man who may hold the key to halting the spread of HIV and AIDS. Patient Z258, as he is known, exhibits natural immunity to “a whopping 98 percent of the de-clawed HIV virus strains the scientists generated in the lab.” Understanding the broadly neutralizing antibody that protects Z258 could lead to powerful new treatments for the disease.