THE PROBLEM WITH NEGATIVE PRESS “You're not athletic enough to run”. “My son says I am too tall to run”. “She won't train”. “It’s not safe to start running at your age”. How many times do we label or restrict ourselves or others without full knowledge of the true situation? What running opportunities have we passed up or been discouraged from undertaking because we believed our "negative press"?
When I was a pathology resident in the early 1980’s the AIDS epidemic was becoming a frightening reality. Its cause was unknown but epidemiologists and public health officials were working frantically to understand the disease. In a TheScientist.com article, “HIV Spread from Haiti to NYC in 1970 ‘Patient Zero’ Not to Blame”, author Ben Andrew Henry relates how a recent scientific paper has presented evidence that, finally, clears one man of an untruth.
You may wish to read on about the specifics (at the end of this post) especially if you remember that era. The general gist of the article is that novel laboratory techniques allowed scientists to prove beyond doubt that the man was wrongly blamed for transmission of the HIV infection to the US, partly because of circumstance, his personality and lifestyle, and a typographical error.
When it comes to embracing the shortcomings attributed to us by OTHERS or generated by negative SELF-assessments, perhaps we should not readily do so. It may be best to hold out for firm evidence and assume that without it, the REVERSE COULD BE THE TRUTH: you will be a runner with athletic training; being tall gives the advantage of a longer stride; she will follow a plan designed for a specific goal race; and training to run at an “advanced” age will help masters' runners feel and move more youthfully.
Whatever our personal negative “press”, we should not let it govern our behavior or goals.
Below is the HIV story in a bit more detail, summarized from the TheScientist.com article and other postings in the medical literature and from Wikipedia entries.
The scientific journal Nature published a paper on October 26 that essentially cleared the man who at one time was considered to be the initial source of HIV transmission in the United States. In the paper, a team of scientists presented complete genome information of the HIV virus obtained from 8 blood samples collected in 1978 and 1979. One of the samples belonged to Gaetan Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant who was widely identified as “Patient Zero” of the AIDS epidemic in this country. In medical science, designation of the first affected person, initial patient, or index case of an epidemiological investigation as “patient zero” seems to have originated with Dugas in relation to AIDS.
This new evidence demonstrated he did not “cause” the epidemic here. A sophisticated analysis revealed that rather than being located at the base of the virus’s evolutionary tree, like a first ancestor arriving in America would be at the base of a family tree, Dugas’s virus is in the middle. The analysis further showed that HIV “arrived in New York City from Haiti around 1970, then spread to San Francisco and elsewhere in the country during the 1970’s.” Dugas was first diagnosed with an AIDS-related illness in 1980 and died of the disease complications in 1984.
Previously reported by Richard A. McKay, one of the study’s co-authors, and noted in the current paper, the designation of Dugas as “Patient Zero” years after his death came about through a typographical error made by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) personnel investigating and writing about the illness. He was originally referred to by the CDC as Patient “Outside-of-California” or Patient “O” (letter O) and was never intended to be named as the person with the first case of HIV infection in the US. The designation “O” was misinterpreted as “0” (number zero) in the preparation of the study manuscript, in error.
Dugas was posthumously portrayed as spreading the disease intentionally and effectively demonized by the journalist Randy Shilts in the 1987 book “And the Band Played On”. Shilts had learned the identity of Patient “O” who became “Zero” while researching his book in the years 1985-1987, and used this background information in his writing. The “view” of the deceased man was absent in this telling of the AIDS story, according to McKay, who contends that Gaetan Dugas “did make changes to his behavior” and that “his assistance helped guide some of the early efforts of Vancouver’s first AIDS organization”.
Media coverage and lack of knowledge about the virus helped perpetuate the mistake in the eyes of the public. Although scientists and historians have long recognized this designation as incorrect, the recent elegant research provides scientific proof. The authors are careful to stress that their research does not lay blame for spread of the disease to the US on the Haitians; “tracing the origin of an epidemic is not the same as placing blame… No one should be blamed for the spread of a virus that nobody even knew about.”
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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