Reports of people being spiked while on nights out have surged in recent weeks. Many victims claim to have felt a sharp pain or found a bruise or pin prick mark on their body hours later, indicating the site of needle puncture. There have been 56 confirmed reports relating to incidents regarding unwarranted injections across the UK within the last two months.
There have been claims that some victims of spiking by injection tested positive for HIV
These reports of spiking by injection prompted the nationwide ‘Girls Night In’ campaign to boycott nightclubs, which highlights the issue of spiking in the hopes to achieve immediate action against it. The novel use of needles as an alternative has promoted intense fear as needles can evade known measures used to prevent drink spiking, such as drink toppers.
There have been claims that some victims of spiking by injection tested positive for HIV soon after it occurred. Multiple accounts of such incidents have been circulating on social media, raising fears and concerns over potentially contracting HIV and hepatitis from reused needles. Along with this, there has been an increase in misinformation regarding the contraction of HIV. This is damaging, as it reinforces the stigmatisation of HIV and exacerbates the panic associated with the virus that was prevalent in the 1980s when it first appeared.
“Rumours someone was diagnosed with HIV shortly after a needle injury are demonstrably false” – National AIDS Trust
While it is possible to contract HIV from a needle previously used on someone with the virus, the chances of transmission in this way are extremely low and need not require the panic and fear that has been induced by the spread of these stories online.
The National AIDS Trust tweeted, “Online rumours someone was diagnosed with HIV shortly after a needle injury are demonstrably false. Getting HIV from a needle injury is extremely rare. A diagnosis takes weeks.”
The virus must have developed enough within the body to be revealed through a positive test. This takes time, possibly up to six weeks, and therefore any news of receiving a positive HIV diagnosis within days after being exposed to HIV is false and should not be accepted.
Deborah Gold, the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, has said “There have been no confirmed cases of HIV infections from needle stick injuries in the UK since 1999.”
HIV is mostly spread through unprotected sex. The virus cannot survive for long periods outside of the body. Due to the successful treatment by antiretroviral medications, people with HIV are nowadays able to live long and healthy lives and 97% of people with HIV cannot transmit it to others.
There is already a great lack of understanding about people living with the virus in society today. This has only been amplified by the spread of misinformation about HIV that has consumed the media. It is vital that we do not continue to drive fears of living with HIV through spreading false stories and perpetuating myths surrounding HIV over social media. Sadly, in our digital age, fake news can spread to hundreds of people within seconds, making us much more susceptible to it.
Not only does such fake news cause mass panic that adds to the stigmatisation of HIV, but it also distracts from the reality of the main issue of spiking and the more valuable information that should have been spread online. For example, conversation regarding the issue of date rape has been uncommon within the media in recent weeks, despite it being a major motive for spiking. This is something that is much more likely to occur after being spiked as opposed to contracting HIV, yet the public’s attention has largely been on the latter.
The fear and panic driven by the media’s focus on contracting HIV only suggests that there is an underlying negativity that many people are, perhaps indirectly, attaching to HIV. This is harmful for people who are living with the virus. Common misconceptions of HIV must repeatedly be addressed and corrected. By educating others, we can help to reverse the stigma of the virus and the ostracization of people living with HIV in society today.
Spiking via drink or injection causes the victim serious harm
By no means does this article aim to take away from the very real and scary threat of spiking that persists. While contracting HIV may not be very likely, spiking via drink or injection can still cause the victim serious harm. We hope that the threat of spiking has retained its validity throughout the media coverage in recent weeks.
We must continue to advocate for the prevention of spiking, while trying to improve public knowledge and education of HIV and other blood-borne viruses. Additionally, we should keep in mind that fake news does very much prosper on digital platforms, and that we must be aware of it.