Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

AIDS Patient Zero

Back in the 80s lived a French-Canadian man who isn’t like you or me. He lived a life well outside the ordinary. Over the course of his short 31-year life, he supposedly had over 2,500 sexual partners.

That man was called Gaëtan Dugas. He was a flight attendant.

Gaëtan’s profession or sexual appetite is not the subject of today’s post. Instead, we focus on the result of his sexual escapades.

For the longest time, Gaëtan (pronounced GAY-taan) was known as Patient Zero of AIDS.

Meaning that he was the first bearer of aids. Which is quite the statement, because by the 1980s AIDS had already infected 100,000 to 300,000 people.

Think about that for a second. One man infects up to 300,000 people.

That’s an astronomical impact. Although you probably didn’t even bat your eye at those numbers. 

“That’s how viruses work, dummy.”

Very true.

But you may be overlooking the point.

Suppose the first carrier of HIV wasn’t the sexually insatiable Gaëtan, but you.

Would the virus have turned into a widespread epidemic infecting hundreds of thousands of people across the globe?

Probably not.

The HIV virus is only as successful as its carrier. The success of many past epidemics actually hinged on the fate of specific agents.

Which is precisely the point: when it comes to monumental change, some people matter more than others.

In fact, an itty-bitty fraction of the population can change the course of the world.

Whether it’s for worse, like Adolf Hitler. Or for good, like Nelson Mandela.

Small but unique individuals can make a big difference.

P.S. Gaëtan Dugas was actually never known as Patient Zero among the experts. The media misread the codename in his report that read ‘Patient O’ to indicate ‘Out-of-California’. Oops. Gaëtan did, however, spread more aids than most.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach