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HIV Needle Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

Emails falsely claim that HIV infected needles are being deliberately placed where they can cause injury to unsuspecting members of the public (Full commentary below.)


Subject: Read This – Red Cross Blood Service – could save a life From: Red Cross Blood ServiceA few weeks ago in a movie theatre in Melbourne a person sat on something that was poking out of one of the seats. When she got up to see what it was she found a needle sticking out of the seat with a note attached saying “You have just been infected by HIV”.The Disease Control Centre in Melbourne reports many similar incidents have occurred in many other Australian cities recently. All tested needles are HIV Positive.

The Centre also reports that needles have been found in the cash dispensers in ATMs. We ask everyone to use extreme caution when faced with this kind of situation. All public chairs / seats should be inspected with vigilance and caution before use.

Seventeen people have tested positive in the Western suburbs alone in the last 2 months!!! A careful visual inspection should be enough. In addition they ask that each of you pass this message along to all members of your family and your friends of the potential danger. We all have to be careful at public places! This is very important.

Just think about saving a life of someone even you don’t know by forwarding this message. Please, take a few seconds of your time to pass it along.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service

Ph: [REMOVED] Fax: [REMOVED] e-mail: [REMOVED]

Detailed Analysis:
This is by no means a new hoax, but one that regularly resurfaces. The example above is an Australian version and involves HIV needles on theatre seats. Around October 2003, another version of the hoax was finding its way into Canadian inboxes. This version claims that hypodermic needles have been attached to gas pump handles and that people have tested HIV positive as a result of being pricked by the needles. The Canadian version is very similar to the original US version,reproduced below, which began hitting inboxes in 2000.

An even earlier version of the hoax claimed that drug users were disposing of needles in the coin slots of payphones, thereby infecting innocent phone users.

Occasionally, syringes are found in places where they could cause injury to unsuspecting members of the public, including a case where an insulin needle was left in a pay phone coin return. However, there is no evidence that the callous and deliberate terror campaign outlined in these hoax emails has ever occurred.

The Center for Disease Control has information about these hoaxes on its website.

Original US Version:

My name is Captain Abraham Sands of the Jacksonville, Florida Police Department. I have been asked by state and local authorities to write this email in order to get the word out to car drivers of a very dangerous prank that is occurring in numerous states.

Some person or persons have been affixing hypodermic needles to the underside of gas pump handles. These needles appear to be infected with HIV positive blood. In the Jacksonville area alone there have been 17 cases of people being stuck by these needles over the past five months. We have verified reports of at least 12 others in various states around the country.

It is believed that these may be copycat incidents due to someone reading about the crimes or seeing them reported on the television. At this point no one has been arrested and catching the perpetrator(s) has become our top priority.

Shockingly, of the 17 people who where stuck, eight have tested HIV positive and because of the nature of the disease, the others could test positive in a couple years.

Evidently the consumers go to fill their car with gas, and when picking up the pump handle get stuck with the infected needle. IT IS IMPERATIVE TO CAREFULLY CHECK THE HANDLE of the gas pump each time you use one. LOOK AT EVERY SURFACE YOUR HAND MAY TOUCH, INCLUDING UNDER THE HANDLE.

If you do find a needle affixed to one, immediately contact your local police department so they can collect the evidence.