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AIDS at the Gas Pump: Urban Myth, Circa 2000

By Sandy Bartlett, July 28, 2000, Columns

The latest incarnation of the urban myth about deliberate transmission of HIV has struck via, you guessed it, e-mail! What's really amazing is how people will fall for something so bogus just because it came to them from cyberspace. It's a hoax, folks!

In this scenario, infected hypodermic needles are taped to the handles on gas pumps, rather than in theatre seats. The warning typically comes from Capt. Abraham Sands of the Jacksonville (Fla.) Police Dept. informing us of numerous local people being stuck, with copycat incidents nationwide. Oooo, how frightening, after all, we all have to get gas! Using a pump handle is an interesting touch, just when everybody is mad at the big oil companies over prices. However, such correlations are common in urban folktales.

Curious about the origin, I called the Jacksonville Police Dept. number provided by the operator. When they answered "Sheriff's office," I asked "Is this the police deptartment?" and she wearily answered, "You're calling about the e-mail AIDS hoax, aren't you?" Yep. There is no Jacksonville Police Dept.; they rely on a sheriff. Ditto, there is no Capt. Sands.

Much as some would like to believe in conspiracies and evil intentions around many topics, this disease is still spread the same old ways: unprotected sexual intercourse and shared drug needles. It's not as entertaining, but we're still responsible for our behaviors. Pump away, but always play safely!

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