Among the interesting things about human society are the Urban Myths that circulate, ranging from alligators in the sewers to drug-laced candy being handed out to children. These urban myths often reflect the fears of our society.
A natural source for a rumor is a blood drive at a high school. Everyone knows that the blood supply is tested for AIDS now, and thus it doesn't take a particularly clever high school student to whisper that they heard that one-third (or one-fourth, or one-sixth, or whatever number they think will be believed) of all the students who gave blood were found to have AIDS. High school kids being, well, high school kids, and not too sophisticated about rumors, etc., the rumor is quickly repeated and soon stated as fact because "everyone is saying it, so it must be true".
Adults, however, should have enough experience to be a little less credulous about such claims.
The facts from Lynn Stedd, a spokeswoman with the San Diego Blood Bank:
"It is an urban myth. We actually receive this call [about rampant AIDS infection at North County High Schools] at least every spring and every fall from some newspaper. It occurs throughout the country."
In fact, the numbers of new cases of AIDS are dropping in San Diego County and across the country, according to another Blood Bank spokeswoman Becky Elliot. About 20 of the approximately 100,000 people screened by blood banks each year for HIV come up positive. For a list of over 100 diseases, etc. that strike at MUCH higher rates than this 0.02% rate, see Rate of Human Problems.
The facts from Clelis Thompson, the FUHS school nurse in a letter to the trustees: 68 donors volunteered to give blood at the recent drive. Of those, 26 were turned away "because they were sick, taking medications, or were anemic." The 42 remaining donors gave 42 pints of blood. If any of the blood had tested positive for any abnormalities, the donor would have been notified immediately confidentially. (NCT 6/4/97, B4.)
Don't believe everything you hear (or even read!). Think a bit about whether what you are hearing makes sense in light of what else you know.
For more entertaining urban myths, see:
Copyright © 1997 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 11 July 1997.