On 24 February 2015, a Facebook user posted a photograph of what appeared to be sliced oranges with red veining or discoloration. According to the user, the citrus fruits depicted were imported from Libya, seized in Algeria, and had been injected with the blood of an HIV-positive person:
The immigration services of Algeria recovered a large quantity of these oranges coming from Libya. These oranges were injected with positive tested Hiv & AIDS blood. Please share this msg & warn people of d dangers involved.
The image appended to the post had previously appeared on a Facebook page on 19 February 2015, but the tone of that version was far more skeptical. The earlier posting observed that rumors about the oranges varied, and that the source of the photograph was not known. Prior to that, a version of the rumor was posted to a message board on 19 December 2014 and similarly claimed the oranges were tainted with HIV-positive blood.
Regardless of the origin of the image, the underlying claim is not plausible. Even if oranges shipped from Libya (or elsewhere) to Algeria were injected with HIV, no threat would be posed by that sort of contamination. As we noted in discussion of earlier rumors about tainted fruit, HIV cannot be transmitted in the manner described:
Except for rare cases in which children consumed food that was pre-chewed by an HIV-infected caregiver, HIV has not been spread through food. The virus does not live long outside the body. You cannot get it from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person; even if the food contained small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus.
Plausibility notwithstanding, rumors about unwitting folks engaged in otherwise low-risk activities contracting HIV have circulated for decades. Similar versions involved a booby-trapped gas pump, deliberately tainted ketchup dispensers, and adulterated pizza purposefully contaminated with infected bodily fluids.
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