Gaëtan Dugas

picCa. 1980

B. February 20, 1953, d. March 30, 1984 at Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Quebec City.

Gaëtan Dugas, the Montréal Air Canada flight attendant who had been considered by some epidemiologists as Patient Zero in the AIDS epidemic, based on a 1984 study published in The American Journal of Medicine (that theory has since been disputed and discredited by many other epidemiologists.)

He was also considered Patient Zero in Randy Shilts' book And the Band Played On, that is, a superspreader like Typhoid Mary because he willfully infected others. The book says he even taunted some men he had slept with by pointing to the sores on his arm and saying, 'gay cancer - maybe you'll get it.'"

Before he died of AIDS-related kidney failure in 1984, he was flown down to Altanta regularly for interviews with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) researchers in order to help understand early patterns in the transmission of the disease, detailing his many sexual contacts and thus helping reinforce the notion that an infectious agent was behind the then-mysterious so-called "gay cancer".1

picCa. 1980. Photo by Rand Gaynor The best-known photograph of Dugas, right, was taken by Haligonian RandGaynor, was the subject of a lecture entitled, "Lignt in the Loafers: The Gaynor Photograph of Gaetan Dugas and the Invention of Patient Zero" at Saint Mary's University in January, 2006 by RobinMetcalfe.

Gaynor says of the photograph: “I had my camera and Gaetan asked me to take his photo. I went ‘Click, click’ and never saw him again.” Word spread about his photos and he was soon fielding media requests to publish his image of Dugas cavorting on a swing. 
For $200, he licensed reprint rights to Life magazine. He still owns the negative.


A caricature of Dugas appeared in the John Greyson's 1993 musical comedy romance film ''Zero Patience.'' The irreverent romp through the history of the AIDS epidemic questions the idea of the spread of the disease by a single individual - via the ghost of Patient Zero seeking absolution.


In late 2016, genetic mapping of the HIV virus genome finally and completely absolved Dugas of the "Patient Zero" designation. An article in the journal Nature showed he was just one of thousands of infected people in the 1970s." 2 3 The story prompted TheCoast writer EvelynWhite? to do an interview with RandGaynor about Dugas' time in Halifax. 4

pic The 2019 documentary Killing Patient Zero by Canadian filmmaker Laurie Lynd clears his name while challenging the urban legend that he was a sexual predator who deliberately infected his lovers.

pic This page is in the AIDSHistoryCategory

HistoryProjectTodoList: connect Dugas' life to Halifax:


1. June 3, 2019: photo retrieved from, "Courtesy of Fadoo"
2. Nature: "1970s and ‘Patient 0’ HIV-1 genomes illuminate early HIV/AIDS history in North America"
3. BBC, "HIV Patient Zero cleared by science"
4. TheCoast, November 17, 2016, "Halifax and Gaetan Dugas"