For years, the "hidden HIV-infected needle" urban legend has been lurking around the internet, occasionally popping up every now and then to spread misinformation. The legend itself rarely changes: someone uses a public facility (payphone, gas pump, movie theatre seat) only to discover that an HIV-infected needle was hidden in it, thus infecting themselves. For the record, these stories have been consistently proven false.
Unfortunately, it doesn't help that people like Pat Robertson are doing everything they can to keep the myth alive. Robertson went on The 700 Club TV show earlier today and talked about how gay men in San Francisco allegedly spread HIV using rings meant to slash the skin when shaking hands.
Of course, the public outcry was swift on this one, so not only has the Christian Broadcasting Network (which hosts The 700 Club) already edited the comments out of their online videos, but Joe My God has a comment from Robertson apologizing for his comment being misunderstood. Not that it was wrong; just that it was misunderstood.
"I was asked by a viewer whether she had a right to leave her church because she had been asked to transport an elderly man who had AIDS and about whose condition she had not been informed. My advice was that the risk of contagion in those circumstances was quite low and that she should continue to attend the church and not worry about the incident.
In my own experience, our organization sponsored a meeting years ago in San Francisco where trained security officers warned me about shaking hands because, in those days, certain AIDS-infected activists were deliberately trying to infect people like me by virtue of rings which would cut fingers and transfer blood."
The problem here is that at no point does Robertson actually have any proof to back up his claim. It's hearsay, entirely, and it doesn't do much more than advance a tired, unfound stigma. At some point, Robertson has to realize that just because someone says it's true, doesn't actually make it so.