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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Researchers: HIV source entered U.S. in '70 or '71
2016-11-02

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Researchers from the University of Arizona and the University of Cambridge claim they have dated when HIV arrived in the United States—and tracked its spread across the country.

In doing so, they claim to have cleared the name of the infamous Patient Zero ( a.k.a. Gaetan Dugas ), a Canadian flight attendant who was cited for bringing HIV to the States.

The researchers reconstructed viral RNA sequences from patients infected with HIV in the late 1970s in New York City and San Francisco. When the scientists analyzed blood samples from Patient Zero, they said they proved he was not the source. Moreover, they discovered that HIV entered the United States in either 1970 or 1971—a full decade before AIDS was officially initially observed.

AIDS Foundation of Chicago President/CEO John Peller told Windy City Times, "This study demonstrates further how deadly HIV can be without regular testing for people at highest risk, and the damage it can do to a whole population over time. Sadly, we're still seeing some of these same problems today.

"In Illinois, one in six people with HIV don't know they are infected, and about one in four people with HIV are diagnosed very late, suggesting that they have been living with HIV for over a decade without treatment. The U.S. needs continued financial investment in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy to address these challenges."

In a statement, GMHC ( Gay Men's Health Crisis ) CEO Kelsey Louie said, "Society, and in particular the media, were all too eager to cast blame on a single person, rather than reflect on the stigma they were creating and the lack of political will to actually do something about the disease.

"The stigma created in the past is still strong today and prevents many from even getting tested for HIV for fear of being labeled a carrier. Were it not for Larry Kramer, Larry Mass, Edmund White, and the other founders of GMHC, we would not be as close as we are now to ending the epidemic and someday finding a cure."

—Andrew Davis


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