The “patient zero”, French Canadian airline steward Gaetan Dugas, of the HIV epidemic, so well documented in Randy Shilts’s “And the Band Played On” (1993), has had his name and online reputation cleared. CNN story is here.
HIV appears to have spread to the Caribbean from Africa and then to the US, and may have been present in the late 60s, at the time of Stonewall.
But for some reason, there were almost no cases until around 1978 (my last year in NYC), and the epidemic was not noticed officially until the summer of 1981.
The “amplification” by behaviors in a closed male gay community is often said (by the right wing) to be the explaining factor. But could it be that Subtype B did not arrive until around 1976 (as Shilts intimates, in an opening chapter about the Tall Ships over July 4, which I remember) or that somehow a subtype became more virulent.
Recent media reports have talked about Hepatitis C as having similar transmission modes, but as being asymptomatic in many people until old age, when immune function keeping it at bay gets weaker (or as it would with HIV+). This bears watching (as with an earlier story about HPV and age).