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Fact Check-COVID-19 boosters do not cause positive HIV tests

Social media users have widely shared a claim that late French virologist Dr Luc Montagnier suggested people who had received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). There is no evidence Montagnier said this, and COVID-19 boosters can not lead to positive HIV tests.

Montagnier, who won a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering HIV, died on Feb 8. 2022, according to reports (here, here) .

Social media users have since shared a quote attributed to Montagnier, but Reuters could not find any evidence the words came from the French scientist. It reads: "For those of you that have taken the third dose, go and take a test for AIDS. The results may surprise you. Then sue your government.” Examples can be seen here and here .

There is no possibility that COVID-19 vaccines in use can cause HIV, AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the name given to illness resulting from HIV) or false positive HIV tests, according to experts who spoke to Reuters.

“There is no plausible mechanism in which Covid-19 vaccines (or indeed, any vaccines) can cause HIV or AIDS,” said Dr Bnar Talabani MBE, Cardiff-based doctor and researcher, and guide for the Team Halo initiative that addresses COVID-19 vaccine concerns (teamhalo.org/).

Dr Talabani added: “There is no evidence to support this claim and it’s a very good example of how misinformation is constructed to play on fear and dissuade people from having vaccines that have been proven safe in almost 10 billion doses given worldwide, to date.

“Vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines cannot cause AIDS / HIV or make us more susceptible to contracting this or any other virus.”

Reuters previously addressed claims that an Australian COVID-19 vaccine candidate contained a fragment of HIV virus (here). The development of the vaccine by the University of Queensland and biotech firm CSL was found to interfere with HIV tests, but routine follow up tests confirmed there was no HIV virus present, according to CSL (here). The trial was halted and the vaccine is not in use (here).

No COVID-19 vaccines approved for administration interfere with HIV tests, said Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

He told Reuters: “None of the existing commercially available vaccines produces cross-reactivity with HIV tests so there is no basis to think that COVID vaccination or booster vaccination induces false positive HIV tests.” Adalja added that no commercially available COVID-19 vaccine or booster doses contain any HIV components.

While Montagnier had before his death shared unsupported theories around the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters could not find any interview or publication in which he had advised people who had received a third COVID-19 vaccine to to take a HIV test.

In a television broadcast interview on April 17, 2020, he claimed that SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, contained sequences of HIV (here), a theory rejected by the scientific community (here).

He later alleged that COVID-19 vaccines were causing new variants of the virus (here ). Medical experts consulted by Reuters said there was no evidence for the claim (here).

VERDICT

False. There is no possibility that COVID-19 booster vaccines can lead to HIV or AIDS, according to experts. Luc Montagnier made unevidenced claims regarding COVID-19, but Reuters could not find any reference to him advising people who had received COVID-19 vaccine boosters to get tested for HIV.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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