Some Internet hoaxes are like the proverbial bad penny—they just keep showing up. It seems the scare about fruit injected with HIV+ blood imported from Africa is making its rounds in email boxes and social media newsfeeds again. UNM Truman Health Services would like to put your mind at ease by providing reliable information about HIV transmission.
Fruit Injected with HIV+ Blood Is a Hoax
The story that fruit has been injected with HIV+ blood is an old one. The first rumor of such an event surfaced on a message board in December 2014. In February 2015, the rumor that oranges from Libya were injected with HIV+ blood and discovered by Algerian officials appeared on Facebook with images.
According to Snopes.com, the story is a hoax. To date, there is no verifiable proof (like official reports from Algeria concerning tainted oranges from Libya or reports of new HIV cases traced back to eating oranges from Libya) that this ever happened. While the images look convincing, it’s anyone’s guess if the images are real or altered.
How HIV Can and Cannot Be Transmitted
Snopes.com explains why the HIV-infected orange story is not plausible: the virus cannot live outside a host for very long. Even if the oranges were, in fact, injected with HIV+ blood, exposure to air, heat and other elements during handling would kill the virus, rendering it harmless if ingested.
The only way that HIV may be transmitted through food—which is extremely rare—is if a child (i.e. someone with an immature and/or compromised immune system) came into contact with food that was pre-chewed (i.e. covered or contained saliva with live virus) by someone with HIV.
Help Stop the Scare
The tainted orange hoax adds more fear and misinformation to a topic that is already fraught with stigmatization. Perpetuating the image of HIV as a biological weapon only serves to diminish the confidence and self-esteem of those living with the virus. You can contribute to a more compassionate and informed community by simply presenting the facts should this hoax appear in your social media newsfeed. Let your friends, family, colleagues and larger circles of acquaintances know that HIV cannot be transmitted by food. If you or anyone has questions about how HIV can be transmitted or would like access to rapid testing, please invite them to contact UNM Truman Health Services.