Pin prick attack
A pin prick attack is a hypothetical assault on another person with a needle or syringe tainted with the blood of somebody carrying a blood-borne disease, such as HIV. Although there have been numerous cases of people being attacked with needles and syringes, the idea that people infected with AIDS have deliberately attempted to infect others in this manner is generally considered an urban legend. Only one documented case exists of a pin prick attack leading directly to the transmission of HIV.
Although fanciful tales of so-called "needle men" or white slavers, who supposedly injected unsuspecting young girls with morphine then carrying them away into a life of prostitution, had been around since the 1930s, the legend probably has its roots in a 1989 incident where ten teenage girls were arrested and later charged with stabbing numerous women with pins in the Upper West Side area of New York. Coming near the height of the 1980s HIV scares, this led to a great deal of panic amongst the local community although health officials were keen to stress that the chances of anybody contracting the virus in this way were practically zero, and nobody affected in the attacks subsequently tested positive for HIV.
As an email/Internet scare story
The rise of the Internet in the 1990s led to the rise of numerous urban legends concerning the pin prick attack, which could be quickly spread via email and discussion forums and which soon assumed a standardised form. The email would take the form of a warning to others that a young person had been visiting a cinema or a night club when the person felt a slight prick on his or her arm. Not taking any notice, the person would carry on with his or her leisure activity, and it was only later that the person would find stuck to his or her clothes or in his or her pocket a badge or sticker carrying the slogan "welcome to the AIDS club", followed a few months later with a positive HIV test. These rumours bear similarities to the so-called AIDS Mary legends of the 1980s, whereby a man would enjoy a one-night stand with a stranger at his house and awaken the next morning to find the stranger gone and the words "Welcome to the AIDS Club" written in red lipstick on his bathroom mirror. However, the American Center for Disease Control has stressed on numerous occasions that it has yet to confirm a single case of HIV as being transmitted in this fashion and has dismissed such emails as a hoax. The motive behind such emails appears to be little more than a scare story intended to frighten the recipient into staying away from leisure establishments by playing on the public fear of AIDS and the notion that an individual could be infected with a killer disease through no fault of one's own.
The sole documented example of a pin prick attack leading to the deliberate transmission of HIV occurred at the Long Bay Jail in Sydney on July 22, 1990, when prison officer Geoffrey Pearce was attacked by HIV-infected prisoner Graham Farlow, who stabbed him with a syringe full of his own infected blood. Despite immediate medical attention and the "one in 200" chance of being infected, Pearce tested positive for the disease a few months later, and died of an AIDS related illness in 1997 at age 28.
- Craig Wolff (1989-11-04). "10 Teen-Age Girls Held in Upper Broadway Pinprick Attacks - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
- http://tafkac.org/ulz/needles.html[dead link]
- "snopes.com: Welcome to the AIDS club". Msgboard.snopes.com. 2003-12-26. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
- "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 2000-06-19. Archived from the original on 2000-06-21. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
- "Prisons (Syringe Prohibition) Amendment Bill". Parliament of New South Wales. 1991-11-14. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- "Hepatitis C thrives in jail". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2001-06-14. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- "1500 pay tribute to fallen prison guard". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2010-01-29.