During a Zoom call with Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Todd Callender, a lawyer and anti-vaccine advocate, claimed the COVID-19 vaccine causes “vaccine-induced AIDS.” Some have speculated that Johnson’s reply suggested that claim could be true.
The video was originally posted to video-sharing platform Rumble, but the full video has since been deleted. There is little to no moderation on Rumble, and the site is known for hosting videos promoting conspiracy theories and misinformation.
A clip from the interview was posted to Twitter by Heartland Signal, a talk radio show based in Illinois. The clip had more than 116,000 views.
In the clip, Callender says: “The way to approach [the pandemic] is from a criminal point of view because that’s what has happened. And until we start holding people accountable, [Dr. Anthony] Fauci number one, you’re going to see people still falling out, still getting sick. You’ve got more than a hundred doctors here, all of whom will tell you that these shots caused vaccine-induced AIDS. they purposefully gave people AIDS. They [the FDA] knew this.”
Johnson responds: “Everything you say may be true, but right now the public views the vaccines as largely safe and effective, that vaccine injuries are rare and mild. That is the narrative, that’s what the vast majority of the public accepts. So until we get a larger percentage of the population with their eyes open to ‘woah, these vaccine injuries are real, why?’ You’ve got to do it step by step, you can’t leap to crimes against humanity, you can’t leap to another Nuremberg trial.”
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause AIDS?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot cause AIDS.
WHAT WE FOUND
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). According to Mayo Clinic, AIDS is the third stage of HIV and when AIDS occurs, the immune system has been severely damaged.
If HIV progresses to AIDS, a person is more likely to develop diseases that wouldn't usually cause illness in a person with a healthy immune system, the Mayo Clinic’s website states.
There is no association between COVID-19 vaccines and risk for HIV infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website says. COVID-19 vaccines improve the immune system’s ability to prevent COVID-19 and protect vaccinated people from the more severe complications of COVID-19.
HIV, and subsequently, AIDS, can’t be transmitted by a vaccine.
HIV passes between people through blood and certain other body fluids, including semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk, the National Institutes of Health website explains. The most common ways for HIV to be transmitted from person-to-person are:
- Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using condoms or medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
- Sharing needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV.
- Perinatal transmission, which refers to HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding.
Needles used for administering vaccines are one-time-use needles and not shared, the CDC says.
In an email to VERIFY, Payal Kohli, M.D., said claims the COVID-19 vaccine could cause AIDS are completely false.
“Despite millions of doses of the COVID vaccine having been administered, there is no scientific evidence and no reporting in the VAERS (Vaccine Events Adverse Reporting System) that there is an association between the COVID vaccine and development of AIDS,” Kohli said.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) was created in 1990 with the goal of detecting possible safety issues with vaccines licensed in the U.S. It is co-managed by the CDC and FDA.
Johnson himself has also fact-checked this claim. In a statement posted to Twitter, Johnson said he does not believe the vaccine causes AIDS.