Claim: When the Red Cross conducted a volunteer blood drive at a local high school recently, they uncovered a shocking truth: 20% of the student donors were HIV-positive.
Example: [Collected by Royko, 1992]
A volunteer blood drive was held at the Conant High School. It was for senior students only. Blood was given by
Origins: The rumor of a large number of HIV-positive high school kids having being discovered through the Red Cross’ rejection of their blood has been with us since at least 1987, and it has moved around the country at will, attaching itself to whichever high school just hosted a blood drive.
Though its venue changes, the story remains the same — some horrific number of fresh-faced youngsters are discovered to be living under a death sentence. The infected percentage of the student body varies from 10 to 82 depending on who is doing the telling, with 12%
For example (the legend is certainly not limited to these communities), the rumor has raced through Chicago (1992, 20% of the students in one particular high school),
What’s the real story here? The American Red Cross began testing blood for HIV in 1985. By 1996 there had been
The use of specific numbers in the claim lends the dire tidings more authority, yet they are still hogwash. For instance, with regard to the rumor we quote as our example (Conant High School, blood drawn from
In 1992 in the small Texas town of Bogata, a health worker’s announcement that she knew of six cases of AIDS at the small
heightened sense of awareness among teenagers that AIDS is a real possibility in their lives probably lies at the bottom of this rumor. It is known that HIV is discovered through blood tests, and that the Red Cross runs such tests on all the blood donations it collects. Teen fear plus a blood drive makes this rumor a natural to sweep through a school once the Bloodmobile has driven off down the street.
Fears are also likely fed by the sight of school chums being told they can’t donate blood. Though potential donors are turned away if they are not feeling well, have slightly elevated temperatures, demonstrate low red cell counts, have recently weathered fevers or colds, have gotten tattoos in the last year, or if it has not been the required
It’s possible parents and teachers do their bit to keep this rumor up and running — the use of scare tactics to dissuade young people from engaging in risky behaviors is nothing new. A story of a nearby high school’s blood drive turning up so many
Barbara “safe as (charnel) houses” Mikkelson
Last updated: 1 November 2004