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How One Young, Gay Man Was Wrongfully Blamed for Bringing AIDS to the US | Broadly

Gaetan Dugas, widely known as AIDS “Patient Zero” was trying to be helpful when he provided a list of his past sex partners to the CDC. Instead, he was incorrectly maligned as a deviant who infected countless people with the disease.

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In the media, Dugas was juxtaposed with Ryan White, the teenage boy who had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. Outlets portrayed White as the innocent victim who had contracted the disease through no fault of his own, whereas Dugas had contracted HIV because of his deviant lifestyle. Not only was he gay, Dugas was described as both promiscuous and foreign. Art critic Douglas Crimp believes that Shilts, who was gay and died of AIDS in 1994, demonized Dugas as a sort of internalized homophobia. Crimp wrote that Shilts offered Dugas up as a “scapegoat for his heterosexual colleagues.”

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