Besides slowing down work on a viable blood test and seriously slowing down research on a potential vaccine, the debate over who discovered HIV also resulted in confusion among the general population.
Not knowing who to believe, the public put the whole AIDS issue in the collective "too hard to understand" basket and went right on engaging in outrageous, risky sex with strangers until somebody definitively told them to stop. The issue was such a scientific clusterfuck that even today there are confused researchers out there still trying to find out what really causes AIDS, because the research surrounding HIV is all laced with subtle anti-French insults.
"This can't be a French sample. It's not surrendering enough."