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Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic

Nonfiction: History, Science
Unabridged   12.5 hour(s)
Publication date: 11/15/2017

Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781681689944
Digital Download ISBN:9781681689951


The search for a "patient zero"—popularly understood to be the first person infected in an epidemic—has been key to media coverage of major infectious disease outbreaks for more than three decades. Yet the term itself did not exist before the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. How did this idea so swiftly come to exert such a strong grip on the scientific, media, and popular consciousness?

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Product Description

In Patient Zero, Richard A. McKay presents a carefully documented and sensitively written account of the life of Gaétan Dugas, a gay man whose skin cancer diagnosis in 1980 took on very different meanings as the HIV/AIDS epidemic developed—and who received widespread posthumous infamy when he was incorrectly identified as patient zero of the North American outbreak. McKay shows how investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control inadvertently created the term amid their early research into the emerging health crisis; how an ambitious journalist dramatically amplified the idea in his determination to reframe national debates about AIDS; and how many individuals grappled with the notion of patient zero—adopting, challenging, and redirecting its powerful meanings—as they tried to make sense of and respond to the first fifteen years of an unfolding epidemic. With important insights for our interconnected age, Patient Zero untangles the complex process by which individuals and groups create meaning and allocate blame when faced with new disease threats. What McKay gives us here is myth-smashing revisionist history at its best.


"With admirable precision, [McKay] offers by contrast a dynamic new history of the early AIDS crisis in North America, superbly contextualized. With ethical urgency, he fashions a trustworthy, inspiring biography of Gaétan Dugas, demanding sophisticated moral reflection.” —John Howard, author of Men Like That

“A viscerally evocative and powerfully consequential study of the fear, stigma, and scapegoating pervasive in the early years of AIDS in North America." —Naomi Rogers, author of Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine

"This well written book is a must read for historians, practitioners, and activists.” —Peter Piot, director London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and founding executive director, UNAIDS

Author Bio

Richard A. McKay is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.