About AIDS

On March 12, this column explored the tall tale spreading via the Internet, in which a coed is infected by a deliberately placed needle in a theatre seat. This urban myth continues to spread nationwide, despite the fact that it isn't true. One Austin corporation even sent it as a "must read" message to all employees, warning them of the danger. Remember, folks, just because it's on the Internet doesn't make it so.

We have received a number of questions, however, in the "yeah-but-what-if" category. After all, HIV can be transmitted by shared needles among drug users. Here is where we must distinguish between scientific possibility vs. real-life likelihood or probability.

We acknowledge that under just the right conditions (e.g., in a laboratory), the possibility of HIV infection might exist. Unlike the sharing of freshly used drug needles, however, at least two primary factors argue against transmission in the theater-seat scenario. There isn't significant blood present, and what might be there has dried and is no longer infectious. The likelihood of infection, then, is somewhere between slim and none. Dr. Rick Bradstreet of the Austin Police Department notes that an officer is stuck through similarly "casual" circumstances about once every six weeks; and ASA's hotline has received numerous calls from worried people who have stepped on a needle in the grass. But no one has ever become infected.

This is a disease spread by unprotected sexual intercourse and deliberately shared drug needles. Exercising caution saves lives. Scaring each other with weird stories may be fun, but it doesn't assist people in staying HIV free.

--Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS
E-mail: ASA@fc.net

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Aids, Aids, A.i.d.s., Hiv, H.i.v., Asa, Aids Services Of Austin

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