Gaetan Dugas, a homosexual flight attendant, was accused to be the first one to spread HIV/AIDS in the US. [Representational image]Reuters

Gaetan Dugas, who was named 'Patient Zero' after being accused to be the first one to spread HIV/AIDS in the United States, has now been cleared of the charges by scientists. Dugas, a homosexual flight attendant working with Air Canada, died in 1984.

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona found that thousands of people were affected by the disease in the 1970s and that he was just one of them. New York was found to be the epicentre for the spread of the dangerous immunity-adversing disease.

People started knowing more about AIDS in 1981, and the symptoms started emerging among gay men.

The researchers even analysed the blood samples from the hepatitis trials, which took place in the 1970s. A new method to regenerate a genetic code of the virus in these patients was invented by them. 

Eight complete HIV genetic codes were acquired by the researchers after screening 2,000 samples of the virus from New York and San Francisco. This aided the scientists to formulate a family tree for tracing the arrival of the HIV virus in the US.

"The samples contain so much genetic diversity that they could not have originated in the late 1970s," Dr Michael Worobey, one of the researchers, stated, BBC reported. "We can place the most precise dates on the origins of the US epidemic at about 1970 or 1971." 

Dugas' blood sample was among those analysed by the researchers. It was found that the virus present in his blood was not responsible for the epidemic in the US.

"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 fuelled epidemics with malicious intent," Dr Richard McKay, a science historian at the University of Cambridge, was quoted as saying by BBC.

Dugas was initially labelled as 'Patient-O' by the US Centres for Disease Control, with the alphabet 'O' standing for 'Out-of-California'. But the alphabet 'O' turned to the number '0' eventually.

Though Dugas passed away in 1984, he continued to be recognised as Patient Zero in the book And the Band Played On.