This myth is extremely dangerous and flagrantly untrue. In May 1987, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that three health care workers had become infected with the HIV virus by simply getting HIV-infected blood onto their skin or mucus membranes. These cases came to be known as "the three splash cases." The first woman was a nurse who simply held her finger on a patient's groin where there had been an unsuccessful attempt to insert a femoral catheter; she had a small spot of blood on the tip of her finger for perhaps 20 minutes before washing if off. The second woman was drawing blood from an HIV-infected patient when the top of the blood-filled tube flew off and she got blood onto the skin of her face and into her mouth. The third woman spilled blood onto her hands and forearm in the laboratory. All three women became HIV-infected. In none of the three splash cases were there breaks in the patient's skin to act as a site for introduction of the HIV virus. (49)
Later in 1987, Dr. L.R. Braathen, a Swiss physician, published a letter in "The Lancet" (November 7, p.1094), demonstrating that the primary target cell for transmission of the HIV virus was the Langerhans cells which lie in the subcutaneous and submucosal layers of the body i.e. the vagina, the mouth, the urethra, and the skin. These cells send out tiny hair-like filaments into the skin that can pull the HIV virus or other substances into the Langerhans cells and thence into the body. Dr. Braathen's findings were confirmed by Professor William Haseltine of the Harvard School of Public Health, and presented at the International AIDS Conference in Florence, Italy, in June 1991. (50)
A 25-year-old athlete from Varese, Italy had tested HIV negative shortly before colliding with an HIV-infected player during a soccer game. There were lacerations on both players, and the exchange of blood. Shortly thereafter the uninfected player tested HIV positive. (51)
A 32-year-old, heterosexual, male, American tourist who was traveling in Africa, had tested negative for HIV disease in August 1987. In December 1987 he was involved in a minibus accident outside Butare. Both he and several of the African occupants of the minibus incurred lacerations, and there was a good deal of blood contamination at the accident site. Shortly after the American returned to the United States, he was found to be HIV infected. (52)
A nurse at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston "traces her (HIV) exposure back to 1987 when a Walpole Prison inmate vomited blood on her scratched hand." (53)
Ruben Palacio, WBO boxing champion, was barred from further fighting in London in 1993 when he was found to be HIV infected. WBO Championship Committee president, Ed Levine, stated, "We can't risk the life of another boxer by letting him fight...It's the kind of disease that can be spread via blood contact, and boxing is a sport where that is likely to happen." (54)
The Centers for Disease Control has recommended that if anyone engaged in contact sports has blood on their skin or their uniform, they should be promptly removed from the playing field. Surgeon General Novello, the surgeon general under the presidency of George Bush, in her "Surgeon General's Report to the American Public On HIV Infection and AIDS", published in 1993, offered this advice:
"Based on current knowledge, participation in sports carries virtually no risk for getting HIV. This is because most sports do not involve contact likely to cause bleeding. If bleeding occurs, however, you should minimize contact with an injured person's blood. It is also advisable to remove the injured person from further play until bleeding is controlled." (55)
The Global Program on AIDS, a committee organized by the World Health Organization, recommends:
"If a bleeding wound occurs (in sporting events-ed), the individual's participation should be interrupted until the bleeding has been stopped and the wound is both cleansed...and covered...As in the health care settings, protective gloves should be worn (by health care personnel-ed)."
It is indeed strange that the program managers of the World Health Organization accept the fact that there is a potential danger to health care personnel from coming into contact with HIV-infected blood; thus health care workers must wear gloves to protect themselves. On the other hand, there is no concern for the safety of players who may come into contact with that very same, potentially HIV-infected blood on the playing field. (56)
Earvin "Magic" Johnson was one of America's all-time, great basketball players. When Earvin Johnson discovered that he was HIV infected, he initially retired from basketball, only to return some months later to resume his profession. One evening, shortly thereafter, during a specially hard-fought basketball game, Johnson's arm became abraded and started to bleed. That was the night that Earvin "Magic" Johnson retired from basketball for the second time...because of his sincere concern for the lives of his fellow players.
Members of the AIDS lobby immediately attacked Johnson's decision to retire as being based on "fear and ignorance." Dr. Mervyn Silverman, one of the leading spokesmen for the AIDS lobby, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "There hasn't been a single documented case of AIDS spread during a game."
That statement is characteristic of the half-truths and frank disinformation which is circulated by the AIDS lobby. Admittedly, other than the instance reported in Varese, Italy, noted above, there are no documented cases of the spread of HIV disease during athletic events. That, however, is not because transmission does not occur, but rather because the AIDS lobby has very effectively blocked all efforts to introduce widespread HIV testing of athletes. Without routine HIV testing, how is it possible to "document" the spread of HIV disease during contact sports?
Since the inception of this epidemic, one of the major efforts of the AIDS lobby has been to block the routine HIV testing needed to effectively track and stop this epidemic.
What is needed in America and throughout the world today is routine HIV testing of all athletes engaged in contact sports. With an average latency period of 10 to 12 years between HIV infection and progression of HIV disease to its terminal stage (AIDS), physicians have no idea how many high school, college, or professional athletes are infected and spreading HIV disease during sporting activities. If health care workers, paramedics, and emergency workers are required to use gloves and universal precautions whenever encountering blood in hospital or emergency settings, why shouldn't athletes, who are constantly getting scrapes and abrasions and coming into contact with blood, be required to take similar precautions? Is blood only infectious in a hospital or emergency setting...just as saliva is only considered infectious in dental offices? This is madness. Every person engaging in contact sports should be routinely tested. In England, an HIV-infected champion prizefighter was disqualified from the ring; whereas in America, the AIDS lobby encouraged Magic Johnson to continue playing basketball, despite the fact that his teammates recognized the obvious danger.
Tragically, as of mid-1995, Magic Johnson once again returned to basketball, convinced by members of the AIDS lobby, and those who are uninformed, that he is not dangerous to his fellow players. In my opinion, his actions have the potential for spreading HIV disease to those who are uninfected. (57)
I should state at the outset of this discussion that I do not believe that insect transmission of HIV disease is a major factor in the spread of HIV disease. On the other hand, one of the first things that a student learns in medical school is that he (or she) must never say "Never" or never say "Always." Medicine is not that exact.
On what scientific evidence do public health officials assure the public that there is absolutely no danger of insect transmission of HIV disease? The Centers for Disease Control carried out an epidemiologic study in Belle Glade, an impoverished, mosquito-infested region of Florida, with one of the highest rates of HIV infection found anywhere in the United States. Testing of adults between the ages of 18 and 39 revealed a 6% infection rate, while testing of 138 children ages 2 to 10 and people over age 60 (where presumably there was little or no sexual activity) revealed no positive HIV antibody tests. Since mosquitoes and insects could be assumed to bite both children and the elderly at the same rate that they would bite adults, the absence of positive HIV tests in children and the elderly suggested that insect transmission of HIV disease was either not occurring, or was occurring very infrequently. (58)
What then can be said on the other side? The best work available on insect transmission of HIV disease was obtained from the CDC in 1992 under the Freedom of Information Act. It was a report from the Office of Technologic Assessment of the Congress of the United States entitled, "Do Insects Transmit AIDS", released in 1987. Pointing out that insect transmission of HIV was certainly not a major means of transmission of HIV disease, a group of distinguished AIDS researchers concluded:
"Experiments with mechanical transmission of other viral diseases have shown that, under the right conditions, transmission through insect vectors can occur...Experiments designed to answer the question of whether HIV can survive in bloodsucking insects long enough to be transmitted if interrupted feeding occurs have shown that it is theoretically possible; however, based on conditions necessary for successful transmission of other viral diseases, and on the biology of HIV infections in humans, the probability of insect transmission is extremely low (p.15)...further investigations are needed of the tentative findings of Chermann and his colleagues at the Pasteur Institute that some insects in areas endemic for HIV infection contain HIV-like nucleic acid sequences in their DNA.(p.17)...While the data from insect studies indicate transmission of HIV infection as extremely improbable, situations may exist in which some insect transmission might occur." (p.22)
The report then went on to estimate that insect transmission of HIV disease might occur in 1 in 10 million mosquito bites, or 1 in approximately 1000 to 4000 bedbug bites. The report, "Do Insects Transmit AIDS", initially available from the CDC under the Freedom of Information Act, has been effectively suppressed, and is no longer available through government channels.
Although insect transmission of HIV disease is admittedly not a major means of spread of this epidemic, valid scientific studies suggest that insect transmission of HIV disease is theoretically possible. Thus it is impossible to say categorically that, "You can't get AIDS from an insect bite." (59)
Respiratory spread of HIV disease has not been documented but is certainly a theoretical possibility. If it occurs, it is most assuredly not a major means of transmission. On the other hand, the evidence which is available clearly suggests that there may well be occasional instances of respiratory spread of HIV disease. What is that evidence?
In September 1987 it was announced that a laboratory worker, working with the HIV virus at the National Institute of Health, had contracted HIV disease. Genetic typing demonstrated that the worker had contracted the same identical strain of HIV virus that he had been working with. Since the worker had used standard protective techniques and worn protective clothing at all times, the only possible means of contamination was by the respiratory route. Jim Brown, a spokesman for the U.S.Public Health Service, stated, "We do not know how this laboratory worker became infected, but we believe that (laboratory-ed) workers are safe." (60)
In October 1987 a second laboratory worker was found to be infected with the same identical virus that they had been working with. Since he (or she) used all the standard protective clothing, and there were no reported breaks in laboratory technique, it was assumed that the second laboratory worker may also have been infected by the respiratory route. (61)
Dr. Jewett, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of California in San Francisco, carried out studies demonstrating that the HIV virus could be aerosolized in the operating room. He also demonstrated that infected aerosolized particles, generated by a bovie unit or by drilling in the operating room, were small enough to go through a surgeon's mask. His studies verified similar studies carried out in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Stanford University. Dr. Jewett reported his findings at an OSHA meeting in January 1990; he spoke to this same subject at the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco in June 1990. (62)
The next logical step was to determine if aerosolized HIV- infected particles could infect animals or humans. Dr. Lorraine Day, former Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at San Francisco General Hospital, subsequently made arrangements with the U.S. Army laboratory at Fort Dedrick, Maryland, to carry out an experiment to determine whether or not chimpanzees could be infected with HIV-contaminated particles via the respiratory route. According to Dr. Day, representatives of the CDC intervened and blocked that scientific study. Why? When asked why the study was blocked, it is purported that one AIDS expert replied, "What would we do if we found that HIV could be spread by the respiratory route?" Thus, the CDC can authoritatively state, "There are no recorded cases of HIV transmission via the respiratory route". (63)
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