Fact check: Posts lie about US military HIV rates, falsely link virus with COVID-19 vaccine
The claim: Military reported 500% increase in HIV cases since COVID-19 vaccine rollout
A March 3 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) features a screenshot of an article headline about HIV.
"'Vaccine-Induced AIDS' - Military Records 500% Increase in HIV after COVID-19 Vax," reads the headline.
The post, which originated as a tweet shared by far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters, garnered more than 500 likes in six days. Similar versions of the post have been shared on Instagram.
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Our rating: False
The claim is false, according to a Department of Defense spokesperson. Statistics show the average number of new HIV cases per year didn't spike after the vaccine rollout. The tally actually dropped significantly in 2022.
HIV rates unaffected by vaccine rollout
The article cited by Peters includes a clip of a BBC broadcast in which a woman says the COVID-19 vaccine contains a small fragment of the HIV virus.
But the vaccine being discussed in the video had been trialed and never released for exactly that reason – it created HIV antibodies in some participants, according to Full Fact.
The article doesn't give evidence for its claim that HIV rates in the military increased by 500%.
Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told USA TODAY over email that there is no truth to the article's claim.
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HIV infections per year have not spiked since the vaccine, and actually dropped significantly in 2022, said Defense Department spokesperson Lisa Lawrence.
The tallies by year:
These numbers are consistent with the Congressional Research Service's 2019 report on HIV/AIDS, in which it said approximately 350 service members are diagnosed with the virus each year.
USA TODAY has previously debunked claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is linked to HIV.
"More than 6 billion people have received the COVID-19 vaccines around the world, and the incidence (of)... HIV transmission has not been reported as a causal link to the vaccines," Donald Alcendor, associate professor of cancer biology at Meharry Medical College, previously told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY reached out to the users who shared the post for comment. The Instagram user failed to provide evidence to back up their claim.
The claim has been debunked by the Associated Press and Lead Stories as well.
Our fact-check sources:
Tim Gorman, March 10, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Lisa Lawrence, March 16, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Congressional Research Service, May 31, 2019, HIV/AIDS in the Military
USA TODAY, Nov. 4, 2021, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines aren't linked to cancer, HIV
Full Fact, Feb. 16, 2022, Potential Covid-19 vaccine which used HIV protein was never rolled out
Lead Stories, March 3, Fact Check: COVID Shots Do NOT Cause 'Vaccine-Induced AIDS,' Did Not Cause 500% Increase In HIV In US Military
Associated Press, March 8, No, the military hasn’t recorded a 500% increase in HIV cases
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that COVID-19 vaccine caused HIV increase