HIV in ketchup?
Today I received two text messages from well meaning friends warning me from using ketchup in refillable dispensers often found in restaurants and fast food outlets. Supposedly, an HIV+ individual is going around putting contaminated blood in these dispensers in an attempt to spread the virus.
Well, I looked up the story on the internet, it turns out to be nothing more than a hoax.
Here's the official word from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States:
I got an e-mail warning that a man, who was believed to be HIV-positive, was recently caught placing blood in the ketchup dispenser at a fast food restaurant. Because of the risk of HIV transmission, the e–mail recommended that only individually wrapped packets of ketchup be used. Is there a risk of contracting HIV from ketchup?
No incidents of ketchup dispensers being contaminated with HIV-infected blood have been reported to CDC. Furthermore, CDC has no reports of HIV infection resulting from eating food, including condiments.
HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body. Even if small amounts of HIV-infected blood were consumed, stomach acid would destroy the virus. Therefore, there is no risk of contracting HIV from eating ketchup.
HIV is most commonly transmitted through specific sexual behaviors (anal, vaginal, or oral sex) or needle sharing with an infected person. An HIV-infected woman can pass the virus to her baby before or during childbirth or after birth through breastfeeding. Although the risk is extremely low in the United Stats, it is also possible to acquire HIV through transfusions of infected blood or blood products.
Check out this page on the CDC website for this and other repeated rumors on HIV infection.
I guess that's one less thing to worry about. If you're really concerned about HIV infection, remember to always practice safe sex and avoid sharing needles if you're an IV drug user. And don't believe everything you hear about HIV.
Yes, it is still a dangerous threat, but it has been scientifically established that there aren't that many ways to catch it. So far, it has only been known to be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, needle-sharing, blood transfusion, and from mother to baby. If there's any story about HIV deviating from these known transmission routes, the story is probably a hoax.
Stay informed, and stay safe.