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Our Search for Patient Zero

In putting together The 30 30 Campaign for AIDS Vancouver, we have been digging through mountains of archival film footage and have been educated, intrigued, and moved. There were stories of Gaetan Dugas, “patient zero” being at the first ever AIDS meeting in Vancouver— and we were determined to find the footage!

Based on a footnote in the book Replacing Citizenship: AIDS Activism & Radical Democracy referencing footage from Gayble Vision’s AIDS Special, which mentioned a meeting held by AIDS Vancouver in 1983, we recently tracked down and converted the video from the first AIDS forum held March 12, 1983 at the West End Community Centre, and were astounded to see Gaetan take the mic.

An Air Canada flight attendant referred to as “patient zero” in the spread of HIV/AIDS in North America, Gaetan was implicated as but never proven to be the common link between North America’s first AIDS cases. Mr. Dugas died from AIDS nearly one year after the meeting in Vancouver.

Be the Change Group is pleased to provide this footage to historians, filmmakers, and scientists who been looking for it for years, and to the public at large. We believe that it will bring a greater understanding of both this most talked about figure in the early days of the epidemic and the early stages of HIV history. 

Our video debunks the mythical portrayal of Gaetan in the book, And The Band Played On, instead telling the story of who he was to the people who knew him. You can check out the rare footage of Gaetan Dugas in the Patient Zero video by clicking here:

It’s all part of the 30 30 Aids Vancouver campaign during which AIDS Vancouver will release a new video each day in July, culminating in an evening of celebration at the Commodore Ballroom on July 30. Full details are available at


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