When HIV first came into public awareness, it quickly became the topic of a body of urban myths and legends. As a disease that was not yet well understood, with no known cure, it was frightening. And because it is most commonly transmitted through sexual intercourse — especially gay sex — and drug use, it was also taboo. This made it the perfect fodder for urban legend infamy.
AIDS as a CIA Conspiracy
A body of urban legends in the early 1990s suggested that AIDS was created by the government. The reasons for this supposed conspiracy vary, from out-of-control germ warfare to a purposeful attempt to eliminate homosexuals. The origins of this rumor may trace back to a 1985 piece of Soviet propaganda. Regardless, AIDS – like Ebola Virus
A number of stories about innocent people being purposely infected with HIV became popular in the late 1980s. Rumors spread that movie theaters, ball pits, gas pump handles and even pay phones had HIV-infected needles or that people would purposefully stab others with these infected needles.
Of course, not only were these rumors unfounded, but they’re impossible: The HIV virus is too fragile to live on a needle in a phone both. While sharing hypodermic needles can and does raise the risk of HIV infection, your chances of being accidentally infected through a random stray needle are practically non-existent.
There are several urban legends still circulating today about people contracting HIV from eating tainted foods. The details of the foods differ from one version to the next, but the general story is that HIV-infected blood or semen end up in food served at a restaurant, which then leads to an infection.
Although this rumor still crops up from time to time, it is wholly unfounded. There has never been a case of HIV being transmitted in this way. Even if a small amount of infected bodily fluid did make its way into food, the air, heat and digestive process would more than likely destroy the pathogens before they could reproduce. There is no HIV risk associated with eating food prepared by an HIV+ worker.
Fortunately, today we know much more about HIV than ever before, and modern medicine can provide treatments to manage this chronic condition. Looking at these myths and others like them just goes to show how far we have come.