Spitting does not transmit HIV: There is not a single recorded instance of anyone getting HIV that way. But a judge in Dallas recently sentenced an HIV-positive man to 35 years in prison for spitting on a cop (who did not, of course, contract HIV).

The Texas case is not unique. In 2005, for example, an HIV-positive man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for spitting on four New York City cops. The man had spit bloody saliva (also never documented to transmit HIV), and the New York Post went to town with the headline, “AIDS Thug Spits Blood in Kill Bid.”

While no cops were endangered in these cases, the general public was. When sensational headlines and crime news deliver false information, miseducation results. People may end up fearing things that do not cause HIV and ignoring (and failing to protect themselves from) things that do. For complete information on how you can—and can’t—get HIV, click your way to “How Is HIV Transmitted?” at poz.com.