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Saliva Does Not Transmit HIV

ctpost.jpgA recent article in the Connecticut Post ("Southwestern Connecticut's largest daily newspaper") tells the story of the arrest of a naked Massachusetts man at a concert in Connecticut.

The man allegedly spit on the 10-day-old tattoo of the arresting officer. The police claim the man said he had AIDS. The man was charged with assault on a police officer, criminal attempt at assault and criminal mischief.

It's not clear in the article whether the man will face additional punishment because he may have HIV.

In the obligatory explanation about HIV transmission, the article gets it wrong:

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be transmitted from one person to another through saliva or other bodily fluids.
As I read that for the first time, I screamed in my head: "Did I just read that?!" Where the heck was the fact checking for that article? Saliva does not transmit HIV.

Here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about HIV and saliva:

Can HIV be transmitted by being spit on by an HIV-infected person?

No. In some persons living with HIV, the virus has been detected in saliva, but in extremely low quantities. Contact with saliva alone has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV, and there is no documented case of transmission from an HIV-infected person spitting on another person.

As an astute commenter said at the bottom of the article:

HIV is NOT transmitted through saliva. Didn't you take 7th grade health class?
The commenter also linked to an FAQ page from the New York State Department of Health on HIV transmission.

I'm glad the commenter chimed in because it saved me the trouble. However, it doesn't resolve the issue of how this fact was screwed up.

I refuse to point the finger only at the reporter. There is a process to generating news copy and it failed big time.

It is exactly this kind of misinformation that keeps HIV stigma alive and well, especially in laws that unfairly target people with HIV.

(Hat tip to Edwin Bernard from his Twitter feed: @edwinjbernard)

Oriol on:


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Comments on Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr.'s blog entry "Saliva Does Not Transmit HIV"

And how many people do you think actually read the comments to see the correct information. I am a sexual health educator for a county public health dept and hear so much inaccurate information when I am presenting to the general public. And even when you give folks written info from the CDC they say they don't believe it. It is frightening. Not that I am condoning spitting but when it comes to HIV and other STIs people worry about things that have no risk or are so unlikely to occur but still have unprotected sex. It is not only frightening but frustrating. And withthe media feeding people incorrect facts it makes stigma even harder to eliminate. Thank you for your article.

I was baffled yesterday by the HIV pamphlet I glanced at while sitting in the local GLBT health clinic. It listed ways HIV can NOT be transmitted. One of the ways was "dry kissing" which immediately made me think that French kissing is a way it CAN be transmitted. So no wonder people are stil confused about saliva.

Thank you for getting it right. Keep up the good work. My thanks to you.


Thank you, Oriol, for your article. There seems to be no headway with people thinking HIV can be transmitted through saliva. My sister's husband, several years ago, took a swig of water from my water bottle by mistake, and they both were worried sick that I had infected him. It was so insulting that I can't even explain.

So glad to see someone is paying attention. If people would read all documented info of where HIV1 comes from, they could come to this conclusion on their own. The sad part is no one ever bothers to find these things out until they are faced with them.

This has been going on forever! What ever happened to the hiv-positive guy from Texas sentenced to 30 years in jail for spiting a police officer on the face? No one did anything about this. The guy was obviously an ass hole, but: Does he deserved to be locked down for 30 years? The stigma towards people with hiv will continue as long as even the "justice" system keeps screwing up like this without any rectification or consequences.

My mistake: Make that 35 years!!! Willie Campbell, a man who is HIV positive, was convicted in Dallas for spitting in a police officer's eye and mouth. The article says that the jury convicted him because "the jury found that Campbell's HIV-positive saliva was a deadly weapon. Can anybody believe this happened in 2008!!! Campbell is still in jail.

It is quite unfortunate that people tend to go more to the wrong sources for information. My advice is, keep quiet if you don't have the right information. It is better not to say anything than to give potentially destructive information.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr. published on July 25, 2011 1:40 PM.

Spanish Priest Ordered to Get HIV Test was the previous entry in this blog.

About 1 in 10 MSM in U.S. Have HIV is the next entry in this blog.

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