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Typhoid Marys


By Alexander Lowe
17 September 2014

Typhoid Mary was a nickname of Irish cook Mary Mallon, carrier of salmonella typhi, responsible for the outbreak of typhoid in New York in 1900s. She worked as a cook moving from one household to another and infecting their families with the disease, responsible for at over 50 known cases, with at least 3 lethal. She continuously refused to cooperate with the health authorities and escaped from quarantine, resuming to work as a cook despite her promises, spreading the infection further through poor hygiene practices.

Her name came up to mind when I read a story of a guy from San Diego who was about to propose to his boyfriend Thomas Guerra when he read on Facebook that his partner intentionally infected his ex with HIV. Discovering that he was himself positive, he found out that there were at least 24 other people infected. The evidence was on his boyfriend's phone, sufficient to press charges and shock the gay media:

“There's hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of text messages where he's talking about intentionally infecting people with HIV. Texts where he's stating he's negative to people then bragging to others about giving people his 'positive load. ‘It’s crude, it's… I don't know how someone could treat another individual like that."

“Typhoid Mary” became a colloquial term for anyone who, knowingly or not, spreads something undesirable. Unfortunately there were plenty of 'Typhoid Marys’ in the gay community. Probably the most famous case was so called ‘Patient Zero’, Air Canada’s blond flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas, man in the centre of the outbreak of AIDS pandemic in America. He flew extensively within the USA as part of his job and using his travel privileges and was credited for spreading the virus from coast to coast of the United States.

Having unsaturable sex appetite, he had around 250 partners a year, several thousands in a decade. Aware of his condition and despite pleas from doctors, he continued to frequent bathhouses and engage in unsafe sex with strangers, allegedly deliberately spreading HIV.

He prominently featured in the award winning book 'And the band played on' by Randy Shilts that documented the outbreak of AIDS:
...Rumours began on Castro street about a strange guy at the Eighth and Howard bathhouse, a blond with a French accent. He would have sex with you, turn up the lights in the cubicle, and point out Kaposi's sarcoma lesions. "I've got gay cancer," he'd say. "I'm going to die and so are you".

Several years ago published a series of articles about 40y.o. Auckland commuter train driver Glenn Mills, exposing him as a sexual predator who was intentionally infecting young people of both gender with HIV, sometimes going as far as raping his victims, tranquilizing them with date rape drugs.

He was specifically preying on young men in their late teens or twenties finding them at gay venues, through the internet and phone dating services, sending over 10,000 texts a month to his potential sex partners. He was described to 'groom' them for unprotected sex by building trust and isolating them from friends and family. If they still insisted on using protection, he would deliberately remove or rip of the condom.

Eventually 11 men and three women filed charges; the youngest victim was just 17 when he was infected. Mills was his first love affair and he was still exploring his sexuality. He believed they had a monogamous relationship and while they started off using condoms, Mills persuaded him eventually to have unprotected sex.

Detective in charge of investigation recalled how teenager reacted when he was diagnosed:

"It was incredibly sad. When I spoke to him he broke down with me and said he was never going to have a normal love affair and his life was never going to be the same again."

Glenn Mills took his own life in Mt. Eden men prison in 2009 awaiting his trial. Typhoid Mary died in forceful isolation in 1938, confined for nearly three decades. Gaëtan Dugas died in 1984, as a result of kidney failure caused by AIDS-related infections. Thomas Guerra is only charged with a misdemeanour, punishable with a maximum prison sentence of six months and $1.000 fine. For now a judge had banned him from using Grindr and other hook-up applications. If charges are upgraded to a felony, he would face 8 years of prison.

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