Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226063959 Will Publish November 2017
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226063812 Will Publish November 2017
E-book $35.00 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226064000 Will Publish November 2017

Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic

Richard A. McKay

Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic

Richard A. McKay

400 pages | 23 halftones, 8 line drawings, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226063959 Will Publish November 2017
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226063812 Will Publish November 2017
E-book $35.00 ISBN: 9780226064000 Will Publish November 2017
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? In Patient Zero, Richard A. McKay interprets a wealth of archival sources and interviews to demonstrate how this seemingly new concept drew upon centuries-old ideas—and fears—about contagion and social disorder.

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.
Contents
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations

0. Introduction: “He Is Still Out There”
1. What Came Before Zero?
2. The Cluster Study
3. “Humanizing This Disease”
4. Giving a Face to the Epidemic
5. Ghosts and Blood
6. Locating Gaétan Dugas’s Views
Epilogue: Zero Hour—Making Histories of the North American AIDS Epidemic

Appendix: Oral History Interviews
Bibliography
Index
Review Quotes
John Howard, author of Men Like That and White Sepulchres
“After a decade of meticulous, painstaking research, McKay unravels the media and medical discourses that created the ultimate twentieth-century super-villain. With admirable precision, he 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.”
Naomi Rogers, author of Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine
“A viscerally evocative and powerfully consequential study of the fear, stigma, and scapegoating pervasive in the early years of AIDS in North America. Deftly weaving together cultural, medical, and political history, McKay has given us a beautifully written study that integrates the experiences and attitudes of gay men with those of CDC epidemiologists, physicians and nurses on front lines, historians, and journalists. His pointed analysis of the shocking allure of seeking individuals who were supposedly deliberately spreading the disease will linger with every reader.”
Peter Piot, director | London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and founding executive director, UNAIDS
“The AIDS epidemic is far from over, and it is crucial that we understand both the history and the myths of AIDS. As a real detective, McKay meticulously analyzes the early days of what has become the largest pandemic in modern times, unraveling the myth of one man triggering the epidemic in North America. This well written book is a must read for historians, practitioners, and activists.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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