We're nearly 30 years into the HIV pandemic, yet a shocking number of people still appear not to know the first thing about HIV. We get to see some of that ignorance firsthand in our "Ask the Experts" forums, where we're sometimes amazed at just how paranoid some folks are about whether they've been exposed to HIV.
We scoured our "Ask the Experts" forums and nominated 10 posts we feel are the "best of the worst" of 2008 (or the worst of the worst, depending on how you look at it). They're some of the oddest, most nonsensical questions we've seen people ask about HIV this year. Some are shocking, some are sad, many are hilarious -- and they're all reminders of how far we still have to go to educate the world about HIV.
Hundreds of readers like you voted on which of the 10 finalists represented the most bizarre post from our "Ask the Experts" forums during the past year. Each post was rated from 1 (not strange) to 5 (extremely strange). We then tallied up the votes, with a rating of 5 worth five points, and a rating of 1 worth one point.
The "Winner" (a.k.a. the Loser)
Ziploc: It Keeps the Freshness in (and, Apparently, the HIV)
(Total Points: 3,454)
Two weeks ago, I masturbated using two Ziploc plastic bags. Now I have a fever and my throat is sore. Did I give myself HIV?
The Final Nine
Here's how the nine other finalists shook out:
Attack of the Errant Toilet-Seat Pubic Hair
(Total Points: 3,290)
Before using a toilet in a public restroom, I noticed a pubic hair on the seat. I used some toilet paper to try nudging it into the bowl, but instead it fell the wrong way and landed on my foot -- it actually touched flesh, since I was wearing flip-flops at the time! Could I have gotten HIV?
Well, This Is Quite a Pickle I've Gotten Myself Into
(Total Points: 3,278)
Can I get HIV -- or any virus, for that matter -- by masturbating with a pickle, a bottle or something similar?
Why Women Don't Like Laundromats: Reason #55
(Total Points: 3,268)
I found a used pair of panties at the laundromat. They were unwashed, and there was a spot of dried vaginal secretion on them. Can I get any sexually transmitted diseases from licking the spot or putting my penis on the dried secretions?
Just Another Day at the Watering Hole
(Total Points: 3,120)
I was in a lake the other day when I came across two men masturbating each other underwater. I was 18 feet away, and at some point I noticed that some semen had floated over and settled on my leg. I immediately removed the semen with water and sand, but could I still have become infected with HIV?
Waiter, There's a Virus in My Soup
(Total Points: 3,116)
While eating at a restaurant recently, a small piece of my food fell off my plate and onto the table. I picked it up and ate it. There was no sign of blood on the table, but if someone with HIV had bled on it, could I have become infected?
Is HIV Risk Afoot?
(Total Points: 3,064)
As I was walking through the mall, I stepped in a small pool of fresh blood. If the blood was HIV positive and I tracked it into my home, would my family be at risk for HIV? What if someone walked barefoot near my bloody shoes, stood in the shower, dropped the soap on the shower floor and then used the soap?
When I Went to a Dressing Room, Did I Try on HIV?
(Total Points: 3,027)
I went to the mall recently and tried on some clothes in a dressing room. As I was trying different things on, I noticed there were a few spots of dried snot on the wall. As I kept looking at the walls, I noticed a dried spot of what looked like blood. I didn't touch it. However, after picking up my sweatshirt and putting it back on, I noticed a few small, red spots (possibly blood) on the chair where I had laid it. If those spots were blood, and they had HIV in them, could they have rubbed off on my sweatshirt and then onto my face as I put the sweatshirt on, thus putting me at risk for HIV?
Oh, You Want the HIV? That's in Aisle Four
(Total Points: 3,018)
I used a shopping cart during a recent trip to the grocery store, and also borrowed a pen while I was in the checkout line. Then, when I was on my way out, I bit my lip so hard it started bleeding, and I touched the open wound. If the shopping cart or the pen had HIV on it, could I have become infected when I touched my bleeding lip?
Worst. HIV Professor. Ever.
(Total Points: 2,975)
I am a new nursing student. My professor says that people with HIV or hepatitis B must be placed in an isolation ward when they're admitted to a hospital. She also says that HIV can be caught by touching sheets that are wet with an HIV-positive person's urine. I'm having trouble believing her, but could she really be correct?