Pat Robertson says HIV/AIDS can be spread by towels

October 24, 2014



Pat Robertson made another misleading claim about HIV/AIDS in Africa when he said:

“You might get AIDS in Kenya, people have AIDS, you’ve got to be careful,” he explained. “I mean, the towels could have AIDS.” (Screenshot and quotation from October 15, 2014 broadcast of the 700 Club) (Source)

Unless you are frequently grabbing towels that were recently covered in infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk, it is nearly impossible for you to contract HIV through this type of contact.

While it is of course important to take precautions when dealing with infectious diseases, it is irresponsible to make unverified scientific claims.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gives a useful list of facts about HIV transmission.

HIV is not spread by:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Insects, including mosquitoes and ticks (HIV does not survive well inside insects)
  • Saliva
  • Tears
  • Sweat
  • Casual contact, such as shaking hands, sharing dishes
  • Closed-mouth kissing (with no open wounds or sores)
  • Toilet seats

To be absolutely fair, under the right conditions, scientists have found that HIV and hepatitis can survive in human blood outside of the body for several weeks, although survival is influenced by several factors, including virus titer (the lowest concentration of virus that still infects cells), volume of blood, ambient temperature, exposure to sunlight, and humidity. (See this study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health)

The organization NAM offers a healthy middle ground on this subject with their following statement:

“It is important to bear in mind that whilst HIV may live for some time outside the body, HIV transmission has not been reported as a consequence of contact with spillages of blood, semen or other body fluids, although many healthcare workers do come into contact with HIV-infected body fluids. Nevertheless awareness of the possible persistence of viable HIV in body fluids will encourage observation of infection control procedures.” (See “Survival outside the body“)

Pat Robertson’s comments do not help educate viewers on infectious diseases, but instead perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes.

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About jslachman381

I'm a Yale graduate who majored in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health.

View all posts by jslachman381


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