“Most public health people think that the ends justify the means” is how Florida International University’s Bill Darrow explains why it was okay for Randy Shilts’ publisher to completely over-bake the idea of Gaëtan Dugas being the “Patient Zero” of HIV. Everyone at the time knew this wasn’t possibly a true idea, that one handsome flight attendant was responsible for hopping around the globe, spreading HIV. Yet the idea stuck. And apparently everyone is okay with it, and besides, he was dead anyway by 1984, and couldn’t sue for libel. But anyway, that’s actually not really how public health people think? Public health policy people are level-headed and statistics-oriented. They like nuance. They like facts.
The only bright side of this sordid bit of semi-news is that it comes from a new book called Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants, which is the SINGLE MOST 80s BOOK TITLE OF OUR TIME, but enjoyably so. For an academic text, it’s quite accessible and readable. Also it’s the gayest book of all time, because in his introduction, Phil Tiemeyer explains which of his army of ex-lovers is Dorothy, Blanche and Rose. He’s Dorothy. Of course you are. Anyway, yay, let’s all read it.