Patient Zero by Emma Loerick
Emma Loerick was born and raised in Montréal and currently studies English: Drama and Theatre at McGill University. She has worked as a producer, production manager and stage manager in Montréal and is currently the Junior Coordinator at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. Emma is passionate about the development of the theatre industry both in Canada and internationally, with a special interest in musical theatre.
When the AIDS crisis began to sweep North America in the early 1980s, researchers were at a loss for what exactly was killing hundreds of gay men. Desperate for more information, they began to search for what linked the afflicted patients together. They came to an ill-informed yet convincing conclusion: many of the men suffering from “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” could have their sexual history traced back to Gaëtan Dugas.
Gaëtan Dugas was an openly gay flight attendant, born and raised in Québec City and working for Air Canada, when he became one of the early cases of the disease now known as AIDS. Dugas died in 1984 at the age of 31. Due to his connection to many initial cases of AIDS, he was dubbed “Patient Zero” in the epidemic, believed at the time to have spread the disease throughout North America. In 1987, the New York Post referred to him as “the man who gave us AIDS” on the front page. Thanks to more recent research, it is clear that this is not the case; it is now believed that the disease most likely came to North America through several carriers, possibly including infected blood samples. But the damage was done, and Dugas became infamous.
How can you face the blame for one of the world’s most terrifying epidemics, while also coming to terms with your own impending death? How do you face the wrath of the world, and how do you know you aren’t truly to blame? How do we know what to believe in a world that is saturated with fear and confusion? And as the media’s influence continues to expand, how do solve a terrifying problem when the answers are nowhere to be found – while still keeping our compassion for those who are suffering?