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No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause HIV, AIDS or cancer

November 2, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine shot makes you more likely to get AIDS or cancer.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Clinical trials and data from the administration of shots around the world have not shown vaccinated individuals are more susceptible to developing cancer or AIDS. It’s not possible to get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from the COVID-19 vaccine because a new needle is used for every injection.

THE FACTS: On October 25, Facebook and Instagram removed a live video published by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. In the video Bolsonaro falsely claimed that people in the U.K. who had received two coronavirus vaccine doses were developing AIDS faster than expected.

On Sunday, a widely-circulated Instagram post made a similar false claim.

“Those injected against COVID-19 will be more likely to develop AIDS,” the post said. “According to some studies being published, it is reported that those vaccinated against the fashionable disease are more prone to suffer from AIDS.” The words “COVID” and “vaccinated” are partially blacked out in the post.

On Monday, a popular Facebook post falsely claimed, “Y’all The shot is giving ppl cancer & HIV.”

But immunologists, infectious disease specialists and cancer researchers contacted by The Associated Press said COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause cancer or make individuals more likely to contract HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS.

Dr. Michael Imperiale, professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan, said the claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer is false. None of the ingredients in the vaccines are cancer-causing, Imperiale said, adding, “There is no evidence linking the vaccines to cancer.”

Dr. Mark Shlomchik, chair of the department of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the idea that any vaccine can cause cancer is inaccurate. “There is no practical way that a vaccine could cause cancer,” Shlomchik said. “No vaccine that we have ever studied or used to prevent infection has ever been associated with cancer.”

The claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause HIV or AIDS is “absolutely and categorically a false statement,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, associate chief of the division of HIV, infectious diseases and global medicine at the University of California San Francisco Medical School. “There is nothing in the COVID vaccines that contain either HIV or increase a body’s susceptibility to contracting HIV.”

Individuals also can’t contract HIV while receiving the shot.

“It is not possible to transmit HIV between people during immunization,” said Dr. Paul Bollyky, associate professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Stanford University department of medicine. “The COVID-19 vaccines are not made using any human blood products and a single-use needle is used in each different person who received the vaccine.”

AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection, associated with a high viral load and a badly damaged immune system, according to the CDC. But in clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, no evidence emerged suggesting people living with HIV were more likely to develop AIDS after receiving the shot.

“Many hundreds of thousands of people have participated in worldwide trials for the vaccines,” said Shlomchik of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “‘Adverse events’ were studied in both vaccinated participants and non-vaccinated people who were part of the study. There was never any difference between the two groups in getting AIDS.”

Real world data also doesn’t show vaccinated people getting AIDS more often than unvaccinated people.

“7 billion doses of COVID vaccines have been given out,” said Gandhi of the University of California San Francisco Medical School. “And there has been no evidence that vaccines make it more likely for individuals to get AIDS.”

While the COVID-19 vaccine shots don’t increase one’s likelihood of developing AIDS, psychologists say stigma and misinformation can negatively impact the mental and physical health of people living with HIV.

“Misinformation and fear mongering are key drivers of HIV stigma. This post contains both,” said Valerie Earnshaw, associate professor at the University of Delaware studying HIV stigma.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.