Claim:   A man was randomly jabbed with a syringe by a stranger and told “welcome to the HIV club.'”


UNDETERMINED


Example:   [Collected via Twitter, September 2014]





 

Origins:   Some of the most well-circulated rumors and legends on the internet (such as “Pin Prick Attacks” and “AIDS Mary“) started years ago when fear of HIV transmission was rampant. On 17 September 2014, news accounts reported an incident allegedly enacting such rumors in Seattle’s Fremont district.

According to several local news outlets, police received a report that contains elements of both old legends. An unidentified man and his girlfriend, crewmembers on a yacht and United Kingdom citizens, called police after a possible “pin prick attack” occurred outside a bar on North 36th Street shortly after midnight:


According to the police report for the incident, the victim and his girlfriend … both citizens of the United Kingdom and crewmembers on the yacht … were standing outside a bar in the 500 block of North 36th Street around 12:15 a.m. Sept. 17 when the victim felt a sharp prick on his arm.

At the same time, a woman walked by holding something sharp and said, “Welcome to the HIV club” while looking directly at the victim, according to the report.

The woman walked off with a man, and the victim saw blood on his arm. When the victim recovered from his shock, he was unable to find the woman.


 

The unnamed victim was said to be so upset by the incident that he did not report it to police for two days. He was treated at Harborview Medical Center for potential exposure to HIV, but it’s not clear how much time elapsed between the reported attack and the victim’s access to medical attention.

Police in Seattle say that the pin prick attack report is the first of its kind in that city:


Police said they did not know if the man had been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

We’ve never heard of anything like this in Seattle before,” Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud said. “There have been reports of something similar in other cities but nothing like this here.

“And hopefully this is a very isolated incident.”


 

Local police attempted to review surveillance footage of the area from the time of the attack, but they found no CCTV devices that were working at the time. Police have not found a woman matching the description of the assailant, and Michaud says that police hope the incident is “just somebody with a very poor sense of humor trying to scare someone in a way that is totally inappropriate.”

The Fremont pin prick attack claim itself is not unique, as many such scares have been reported over the years. But while the “AIDS Mary” and “Pin Prick Attack” rumors were rife in the early days of the internet, only one recorded case of HIV transmission in this manner has been documented. That incident was targeted, not random, when a prison guard was infected with HIV by a prisoner armed with a syringe in 1990. The guard died of an AIDS-related illness in 1997.

Other than the man’s girlfriend, no witness to the incident in Seattle on 17 September 2014 has stepped forward; and no footage to substantiate the man’s claims has surfaced.

Last updated:   24 September 2014