Searching for Patient Zero: who was John Eaddie in Aids pandemic - when is the documentary on ITV?

Eaddie’s cause of death was recorded as a rare form of pneumonia that would later be recognised as a deadly sign of HIV/AIDS

Searching for Patient Zero: Britain’s AIDS Tragedy tells the story of John Eaddie.

That’s unlikely to be a name that you’re familiar with, but Eaddie’s is an important one, as ITV spent three months tracing his life and death to discover that he was the first recorded AIDS victim to die in Britain.

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What is Searching for Patient Zero: Britain's AIDS Tragedy?

40 years on from Eaddie’s death on 29 October 1981 at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea, this new documentary in ITV’s ‘Tonight’ strand of programmes pays tribute to the man, and examines how HIV/AIDS treatment has changed in the preceding decades.

Eaddie’s cause of death was recorded as pneumocystis pneumonia, a rare form of pneumonia that would later be recognised as a deadly sign of HIV/AIDS.

But at the time of Eaddie's death doctors didn't even know the underlying cause was a virus, and the only trace of his death was a brief entry in a medical journal that referred to a "known homosexual" who had travelled to Miami and was suspected to have died of a mystery illness that was sweeping the gay community in America.

By tracing all the patients who died with pneumocystis pneumonia that year, ITV were able to find John's death certificate and find the friends that nursed him in his final days.

One of Eaddie’s friends, Paul Wills, told ITV that in later years he had suspected that John must have died of AIDS, given his symptoms.

“I think it’s nice that we now know”, he said. “I think it’s quite fitting that John can be remembered, because there was such a stigma.”

That stigma led to many gay men being victimised in the early ‘80s, as AIDS began devastating their community. At first, the disease was referred to as “gay cancer” or “the gay plague”, with many patients blamed for having contracted HIV.

When can I watch it?

Searching for Patient Zero: Britain’s AIDS Tragedy will be shown at 7.30pm on ITV on Thursday 11 November.

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