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U.S. doctors first noticed the disease that would come to be known as HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s.

The story starts with a group of doctors, who noticed an outbreak of a rare skin cancer called Kaposi sarcoma in young gay men in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. We now know that Kaposi sarcoma is linked to HIV/AIDS, but at the time, those doctors didn't know what was causing the rare form cancer.

CDC researchers, suspecting that whatever was causing this disease was sexually transmitted, started asking patients to name their partners. And, through this work, the researchers started to build out a map of cases.


That's where a man named Gaetan Dugas comes in.

Photo from Anonymous/Assoicated Press.

Dugas was a Canadian flight attendant, and he was named by several of the patients as one of their sexual partners. Soon enough, the scientists started talking to him. It turned out he was sick too.

Dugas' case started the phrase "patient zero," which you may have heard of. But the term — and its tie to Dugas — was more or less an accident.

Dugas did end up near the center of their map, which some people took to mean that he was the original source of this new and rare infection in the United States. But the scientists didn't mean to imply that.

A re-creation of the 1984 "map" of infections. Dugas' spot is highlighted in red. Image from Niamh O'C/Wikimedia Commons.

Even the term, "patient zero" was an accident. Dugas was originally anonymized as Patient O, for "out(side)-of-California." It was only later, in a misunderstanding, that Dugas became "patient zero."

Dugas was originally anonymous, but once the media learned who he was, they turned him into the great HIV/AIDs villain.

Dugas' name first appeared in the book "And the Band Played On," by Randy Shilts. And the media, once they got wind of who he was, painted Dugas as some sort of purposefully malicious villain — the man who "brought" HIV/AIDS to the U.S.

"Gaetan Dugas is one of the most demonised patients in history, and one of a long line of individuals and groups vilified in the belief that they somehow fueled epidemics with malicious intent," said Cambridge's Richard McKay in a statement.

But not everyone believed this was true, so scientists investigated. And they may have just cleared his name.

There have been previous suggestions that Dugas did not deserve the dubious moniker of "patient zero," but now a team, including McKay and led by Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, may have definitive evidence that Dugas was not the original carrier of HIV.

To do this, the scientists got a hold of old blood samples containing the virus from Dugas and eight other patients. They then used sophisticated genetic techniques to sequence each HIV infection's genome, effectively building a kind of family tree of the virus.

If Dugas was really the first infectee (or what scientists more properly call the "index case"), his sample should have been at the root of the tree. But that wasn't the case. Instead, their research suggests that the disease actually entered the United States from the Caribbean sometime in the 1970s. It turned out he was simply another patient with a really tough disease.

This study will help us better understand how HIV/AIDS entered the United States. But it also shows why the idea of a patient zero can be so problematic.

We often want someone to blame when big things go wrong — a scapegoat makes things a lot easier. The idea of a patient zero provides an all-too-easy target.

"Blaming 'others' — whether the foreign, the poor, or the wicked — has often served to establish a notional safe distance between the majority and groups or individuals identified as threats," said McKay. And Dugas, an unashamed gay foreigner in the 1980s, was, to many in America, one of the "others."

Though we have a much better grasp on HIV/AIDS today than we did in the 1980s, we continue to see this vilification with other diseases.

Take the stigma the family of Emile Ouamouno, the 2-year-old patient zero of the 2014 West African Ebola epidemic, has had to live through.

An aid workers sets up beds in Liberia in 2014. Photo by Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Scientifically, this vilification can be problematic as well. Identifying the origin of a disease is an important step in understanding how it spreads, but solely focusing on that can obscure other, larger contributing factors that contribute to how a disease spreads, such as unequal access to health care, said McKay in The Guardian.

In the end, the idea of a patient zero can also eclipse the human cost.

Rather, we can get so wrapped up in our obsession with blaming a patient zero, that we can lose sight of the very human cost of the disease itself, which often plays out right in front of us.

"It is important to remember that, in the 1970s, as now, the epidemic was driven by individuals going about their lives unaware they were contracting, and sometimes transmitting, a deadly infection," said McKay.

The early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic were a terrible, dark time for everyone who lived through them, and reducing that story to blaming just one man is a grave mistake. McKay said they hope this research will give people pause before using the phrase again.

Dugas died in 1984 of AIDS-related complications.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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via Tod Perry

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