Despite what you read on the web, having Rh negative
blood does not protect you from HIV infection.

A dangerous rumor has been spreading across the web that people with Rh negative blood are resistant or even immune to getting AIDS. They’re not. This is the “everyone is an expert” ethos of the web at its worst.

I was clued into this rumor through my Ask a Geneticist website. A few months ago I started to get a few questions about whether or not having Rh negative blood protects people from getting infected by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. I get occasional, random questions like these which I answer and then don’t give a second thought.

But then I started to get more of these questions. And then I got one where someone asked me if being Rh negative was the same as having a CCR5 delta-32 mutation. That woke me up.

Having two copies of the delta-32 version of the CCR5 gene does give some protection from HIV infection. But it has nothing to do with being Rh negative.

Being Rh negative has to do with red blood cells and CCR5 delta-32 with white blood cells. Not only that, but CCR5 and RhD are separate genes on separate chromosomes. (The RhD gene is the gene involved in being Rh negative.)

Clearly the questioner had put two and two together and came up with the answer that CCR5 delta-32 and being Rh negative were the same thing. Which is not the case. I decided to set out and try to find out where this rumor was coming from.

As I talk about here in a previous post about Rh negative blood, I traced it down to a couple of things. One was the supposed mystique associated with being Rh negative. The other had to do with a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of four separate bits of science.

This rumor probably isn’t that big a deal yet. It isn’t like the polio vaccine one in Nigeria that has caused a resurgence of polio there. Or the one about vaccines in general being risky which is at least part of the reason for the whooping cough epidemic here in California.

But if the rumor that being Rh negative protects you from AIDS does take off, then people will get AIDS who otherwise might not have. Rh negative people who do risky things are as likely to get AIDS s anyone else. This is why I wanted to find out what was behind the rumor and try to nip it in the bud.

Hopefully the few people who read what I have written will trust me. I have no axe to grind here and really only care about the truth. Which, unfortunately, is not what a lot of people think about most scientists.

Scientists, along with many other experts, used to be seen as impartial. This is no longer true. In fact, the “everyone has to be an expert” idea probably springs from this general mistrust of authority.

If you don’t trust scientists, then you are going to try to interpret the science yourself. That is hard enough that you may come to the wrong conclusions.

So one answer might be to try to find or create a reliable source of science information. Some place where the scientists involved have no vested interest in the answer.

This used to be universities and the government but that ended long ago. We obviously need something else.

Maybe someone with way too much money like Google needs to set up a foundation where scientists can squash these rumors before they spread. The foundation would have to be independent and receive no outside funding and the scientists would have to work for no one else. This might be enough to give most of the public the confidence they need to trust the answers that come out of the foundation.

37.7749295 -122.4194155

Tracing Bad (and Dangerous) Internet Science 6 July,2011Dr. Barry Starr
  • Liz Ditz

    Hi Dr. Starr:

    “a foundation where scientists can squash these rumors before they spread. The foundation would have to be independent and receive no outside funding”

    You could try two UK sites:

    Sense About Science

    and the newly-formed Nightingale Collaboration

    There are fact-based nonprofits for particular diseases or medical interventions (I’m thinking about Shot of Prevention, a blog sponsored by several immunization-promoting non-profits). For a general blog I recommend Science-Based Medicine

  • Paul Bishop

    Please comment on this Patented cure for AIDS. Is it real or a hoax?

    United States Patent 5,676,977
    Antelman October 14, 1997
    Method of curing AIDS with tetrasilver tetroxide molecular crystal devices

  • Barry Starr

    I’m not an expert on HIV infection but since this patent was published in 1997 and nothing has come of it in 14 years, I’d say it probably isn’t as effective as the person(s) who patented it hoped. This doesn’t mean it was a hoax, people have to patent very preliminary results to keep from getting scooped by someone else. Most likely this looked good in the lab under certain conditions but it didn’t hold up with more extensive testing. Of course I don’t know for sure what happened but this would be a big deal if it worked and it wasn’t (I couldn’t even find any published papers on it). The only time I have seen HIV cured is when someone received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with two copies of the delta32 version of the CCR5 gene (see and we’ll have to wait and see if it really is a cure.

  • al7

    to the conscerned . the above listed patent must be the one mentioned on the ” godlikeproductions” site. i looked into this . who owns the site . i read the server for the site goes back to elgin air force base area in florida . thats on the net . the % of ppls with the ccr5 delta 32 mutation and those with rh negative blood are the same or close at about 18% in america and nw europe ,but since i been digging in on the issue i found a big laundry list id host resistance factors to include pk levels , hla -b 27 and 57 and more too. now just today i read the blood given to preemie infants was taken from o- donors. why? i have 0- but don’t donate because i fall in the risk group of the polio vaccine contamination with sv-40 group. what sparked the aids/cancer epidemic? am i resistant? i do have nhl. is mpmv,srv-d,sv-40,siv and se-polyoma virus all the same agent ? my doc knows nothing and he’s an oncologist associated with pitt. wtf? i find siv is the progeny stage of sv-40. thats the differeence between the rna virus and its dna stage . sv-40 was an older name for se polyoma . siv was not adopted till the 80s. what kind of dance am i seeing here where they keep changing its name ? starr if you have anything to add reply to my email

  • Guest

    I’m O-, they keep vaccinating me… I do not develop antibodies with vaccines. I have the antibodies from wild viruses only. Maybe the answer is vaccines don’t work as well for anyone, but I think it’s because I’m O-. My friends who have had babies aren’t told every time they have a baby they have to have a Rubella shot because they have no antibodies, AGAIN (seriously 3 times this happened). I should have said NO the 2nd time. What the heck what I thinking? This also happened when I was a child. I had the smallpox vaccine–I think I was the only child without the smallpox shot scar. I got the measles (not Rubella kind) when I was a child as well. Yes, and I was vaccinated. They told us, oh she got a bad vaccine. Seems a theme throughout my life. My guess is this, us O- types are a very small percentage of the population. Are vaccines even made to work on us? Are we even part of the herd?

    • Guest too

      Yes, yes! Same here. Glad to know there is another person out there like me.

  • I have been in some groups on facebook for people with rhesus negative blood and I know where some of it comes from. There was a woman called Ellenor Whitty who offered a reward for anybody who can find an O negative person with HIV, but nobody came forward. There’s also a man called Mike Dammann who some don’t believe he’s even rhesus negative with some rhesus negative web pages. He started off only writing about conspiracy theories such as chemtrails or politics, and would make money from the advertising on the sites, but then after making a youtube video about rhesus negative, he decided he was rhesus negative, yet had told people before that he had never had his blood tested to know.

    • Barry

      Thanks for this internet sleuthing! It is really interesting to see how these rumors might have started…

    • R E Whitty

      Hi there, I tried to verify Dammann as a real person in Turkey by sending him a package from the USA which was returned months later as “no such address.”

  • One thing is for sure is that the CCR5 mutation is most common where people are rhesus negative, so maybe rhesus negative people are more likely to have the other mutation?

    • Barry

      Is this for sure? There isn’t any genetic reason for the two to be linked as one is on chromosome 1 and the other on chromosome 3.

  • Debbie

    Hi Barry and all. I am pretty sure I am the one who asked the question that “woke you up”. I understand your concerns over false info. My initial question to you, if I recall correctly was if there was any correlation between CCR5 and rh negative. It has been 3+ years and still arises in my thoughts. I thank you for answering the question back in 2010. I know the two are on completely different chromosomes. I was just wondering if any study had been done (or perhaps should be done) to see if those with CCR5 also had an rh negative blood type. Most likely no study was done. The problem I have is the four different sciences rarely communicate with each other as they are so fixed on their particular area of expertise. I don’t think it is unreasonable at all. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. RH negative is more then not brushed off. Maybe because of the small percentage the funding an interest would lean towards the majority. Thankfully the discovery of O- used as the universal blood donation as well as RhoGam to prevent serious complications and death. There is something to rh negative blood that is different. There may even be correlations between different chromosomes. How would anyone know anything without asking. Thank you.

  • Ellenor Whitty

    Hi There, Sweetie, I never said that all Rh-Negs were immune to HIV. A bunch of online trolls came along and altered my words since 2002. I said that only the O-Negs were exempt from HIV because O-Neg blood is simply unique, and no one can figure us out. My doctors told me this, and I did mega research. And then, my doctor experimented on me 7 years ago, and I do not have any medical issues today. And as of now, May 2014, no one has stepped forward to collect their bounty from me to prove me wrong.

    • REW

      UPDATE, DARLINGS (11/2014):
      Still no O-Negative people with HIV, or Ebola.

      • Kayla Frances Stevenson

        Please contact me at 318-542-2098.

    • Kayla Frances Stevenson

      Ellenor whitty can you please contact me at 318-542-2098 I have some questions regarding o- blood line. My husband and I are both o-. We are very interested in your research and would not mind if you all wanted to use us as test subjects. Please contact me my name is Kayla Stevenson. Thanks a bunch.

  • My Proofreader Died of H7N9

    I don’t think there are many, if any who thought RH- negative blood made them immune in and of itself. Rather that those who lack the D antigen have noticed they seem to have a set of shared characteristics setting them apart from the general population. And they are wondering if aids immunity/resistance may be one of those differences.

    The population of sub Saharan Africa has almost no one with RH- blood. Nor O type blood and they have up to 30% of they’re population infected with HIV. Yet the infection rate in populations with higher RH- representation is far lower. In America where the HIV virus originated for example 15% are RH- and a strong majority are lacking either D, A, B or all three antigens and the HIV infection rate is only .4%. Over 60 times lower sub Saharan Africa!

    You point out that red and white blood cells are controlled by different genes. That answer is interesting, but overly simplistic. First your answer assumes the CCR5 gene is the only way someone could be resistant HIV. Second you don’t address whether it is more or less common for those with RH- blood to also carry the CCR5 mutation.

    Clearly having curly black hair and dark brown skin are not all controlled by only one gene either, but it would be silly to suggest possessing the gene that gives one dark hair and skin didn’t indicate a strong likely hood you would also possess the gene that causes curly hair.

    So the most accurate answer I glean from your article is the only known immunity to HIV is the CCR5 mutation which is not part of the same gene as controls the RH blood antigen and you have no idea if there is any other immunity directly or indirectly connected to a person lacking the D antigen.

    … and I assume A or B antigens?

  • shadow

    I think it is type o negative blood that has both genes oh why haven’t they came out and said its not negative blood or said anything about negative or positive blood with ccr5 delta 32 all I know is if you look at the numbers for the ccr5 delta 32 there very close to the numbers of people with type o negative an rh negative in general with all the same ancestral inheritance let me tell you there’s no way it can be some one with rh positive blood the dna is not the same there always a spectator in truth an thats why this dillweed put up this lame ass “let me confirm to you that it has nothing to do with rh negative”……hahaha when his first sentence was rh just means red blood cells what a dumb ass it has alot more to with just red blood cells I take no blood from any contaminants if youre blood enters my body I will attack the shyt out of it kinda like ccr5 delta 32 read a god dam blood transfusion chart may it will give you a clue as to how rh negative blood is more protective to its body attacking foreigners sound familiar gator dont take no shyt

    • deanmc

      Or how the female negatives will attack and kill a positive fetus (usually after the first pregnancy). Like I say, the negatives are another species of human.

    • Rose Tyler

      Personally, I tend to agree. I’m sure there are O- people who don’t carry the CCR5delta32 gene, but I would be willing to bet that many do. My reasoning is that before the Rhogam shot came out (in the ’60’s I believe), the rh- genes were pretty much only passed down by rh- couples. Today an rh- and an rh+ can have as many children as they want with the Rhogam shot, so there’s a lot of rh+ children running around with 1 copy of rh- that they might pass on. But before, rh- was mainly passed down through rh- families, the majority being rh-, as rh- women had trouble after their first rh+ birth. Families married family to ensure the marriages could produce children. All rh- people are essentially family somewhere down the line. You only get your (-) from a (-), and that (-) got it from another (-) and so on to the original (-). So while today there is more spreading of the (-), 60 yrs. ago this was not so common. If the CCR5delta32 gene did indeed develop in an rh- family, it is very likely that the gene was passed down through that family. And that family due to necessary, selective breeding, kept the gene in the family. 60 yrs. is a long time, and there were rh+ children with a copy of rh-, although few, before the shot, but now the gene is likely in more rh+ people as well, and missing in some rh- people, but I would still think the majority of people with the CCR5delta32 gene would be O-, if of course the gene began in an O- family. This is just my opinion because really we don’t know who the CCR5delta32 gene originated in, and the entire world has not had DNA testing. Seems a good theory to me.

  • REW

    “Tracing Bad (and Dangerous) Internet Science” is a poorly researched online article attributed to naming Ellenor Whitty personally as a source of inaccurate health information. What Dr. Barry Starr claims is simply not true in Ms. Whitty’s case. Dr. Starr never contacted Ms. Whitty directly, nor did he reach out to any of her other dedicated Rh-Negative blood type research associates to request documents and/or medical evidence regarding this matter. Whitty simply stated that since 2001, she has not found any person, alive or deceased, with HIV that also has O-Negative blood.

  • Ryan Kim

    I was told by my doctor that i was B Negative two years ago and i’ve been doing research about it ever since. There aren’t any scientific data that backs up immunity to HIV, Ebola or any other viruses. None, what so ever. Only thing i keep seeing is people saying, “there are no known cases of people with rh negatives infected with these viruses”, to back up the claim. My question is, how do you know? Is there a registry that archives everyone affected with these viruses by blood types that you have personal access to? This just doesn’t seem probable to me.

    Anyway, only thing i realized after all these months of researching is that there is really nothing special about being RH Negative from scientific point of view. We’re rare, yes, there aren’t too many of us but that doesn’t make us special. We just lack D anitigen out of 50 other antigens. There are theories and speculations ranging from being bloods of gods to kings to witches to aliens, you name it. And nobody can back these claims other than some shady website or blog that someone in their basement put up. Also, its very clear that people with RH Negative blood seem to think that they’re “better” than others or have special abilities, again none of which can be proven except their own claims.

    To be frank, RH negatives seem like weirdos that craves attention and honestly, i don’t wanna be grouped with these weirdos.

    • Dirty_Martini


    • Loulou Boland

      Haha im A- and i agree with you 100%

    • Rose Tyler

      O- blood is a bit special in that it can be given to anyone. The other blood types, O+ included, cannot. Rh- people can’t take rh+ blood, our bodies will reject it. Also we attack rh+ fetuses, which is not so much special as it is scary. That’s as far as specialty goes though. Rh- people are no different in any other regard to people with other bloodtypes.

      I think the whole rh- camaraderie isn’t about being special, but about networking with other people who understand the issues we deal with. Most women don’t have to worry about killing their children simply by carrying them inside their womb. Most people don’t have to worry whether the hospital has their bloodtype in case of emergency. Rh- people can’t travel to certain places because of the lack of rh- blood supply (it hopefully will not be needed but you never know). That is why some rh- groups have sprouted up, in case of emergency they can contact each other for blood donations. There are also some wack groups/websites that perpetuate the rh- god/alien/lizard people etc. myths. I agree with you on those counts, they are weird indeed, and looking to be special.

  • Dirty_Martini

    Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, it is NOT that all Rh-Negs that are exempt from HIV, it is exclusive to the O-Negs. Walking, talking medical and DNA proof of this.

  • Dirty_Martini

    How do you explain why no one, in the past, has showed up to collect their $5,000 bounty to prove that O-Negs cannot get HIV? No one can do this. O-Negative people are different, and I cannot change my blood type.

    • PsyFy

      i’m O negative and i don’t have aids where do i pick up my 5k?

  • Dirty_Martini

    Dr, Barry, I invite you to come to Houston, my 18+ year employer provides private fiber to the Texas Medical Center since the 1990s, I will show you things that will change your mind. What I said is no BS about Rh-Negs

  • Dirty_Martini

    HELLO, Dr. Barry, it has been over a year, and you have not responded to my invitation to let me PROVE to you and all of your other trolls that HIV infection does not happen to people with O-Negative blood. Come to Houston TX, and I will show you in a lab, in real time, that HIV cannot launch itself in an O-Negative body.

    • Brian Mino

      Thank you for calling this Quack out!

  • Rose Tyler

    Hello Dr. Starr. I understand the difference between leukocytes and erythrocytes, that the lack of the rh protein in erythrocytes itself doesn’t give one immunity to HIV, but the CCR5delta32 gene in the leukocytes can. Why is it that Rhogam is given to HIV patients if being rh- has nothing to do with the immunity/fighting of HIV? I have searched but cannot find an answer. Rhogam is the shot given to rh- mothers after childbirth, and is made from the blood of other rh- mother’s who have already become sensitized to the rh antigen. While it doesn’t cure HIV, it must do something or HIV patients wouldn’t be given it. I know you are not a virologist but perhaps you could answer this for me. What is it that antibodies to the rh antigen do for HIV patients? Why are they given Rhogam? And since they are given Rhogam, doesn’t that suggest that the immune response to the rh antigen does in some way have something to do with the immune response to HIV? But in what way? I ask out of curiosity and a love of learning, I in no way plan on myself being a guinea pig to see what my immune response does to HIV.

    • PsyFy

      maybe the rh protein is a viral protein? maybe negatives were first and aids virus left its protein in humans and thats where positives came from? viruses do that. aids made humans, humans made aids, yes?

      • Rose Tyler

        Um, no. I was thinking more along the lines of perhaps the rh antibodies in some way encourage the production of T or B cells, since HIV suppresses the production of them. Although I don’t know if that is what happens because I am under the impression that T and B cells are triggered by antigens and not antibodies. But could the T cells recognize the new antibodies and be tricked into skipping the antigen recognition stage and go straight to the production of B cells in order to help the antobodies?  The antibodies would not be fighting the rh antigen in rh+ people, but once produced could they then sense the HIV and attack it? In no way curing HIV, but boosting the immune system enabling the HIV patient to better fight it while the rh antibodies are alive to stimulate production of the B cells? But if this is the case, then wouldn’t antibodies for most antigens, not simply the rh antibodies, do the same thing?

        I don’t believe being rh- makes one immune to HIV. But I do believe it could be an indicator of the possibility of having the CCR5 gene. However, with some HIV patients being given Rhogam, I do wonder what the Rhogam does for the HIV patients receiving it since Rhogam is simply rh antibodies. Given to an rh+ person, it would be a vaccination against themselves. But rh- blood doesn’t trigger any sort of response in an rh+ person, which is why I suspect it has an alternate function like stimulating the production of B cells. I don’t know if this is what it does, and that is why I am asking. But if it does not do that, then what does it do?

      • Rose Tyler

        Also the rh+ protein is on the red blood cell. There is no DNA in the red blood cells. Viruses can only replicate in white blood cells. I doubt very much that the human immunodeficiency virus made the rh+ protein in the red blood cells. Humans didn’t make HIV either. They may have knowingly or unkowingly helped it jump species for it to be able to infect humans, that is up for debate. But HIV was already here as SIV, before it infected people. Viruses jumping species has happened before, HIV is not the first.

        • PsyFy

          yes this has all happened before and it will happen again.

          • Londo Mollari

            So say we all?

  • Jamie

    I wish he’d answer some of these questions.

  • DJ Shanghai

    Wow Doctor. Love your honest answer regarding Bias in Science. Also appreciate your clarification regarding HIV and RH negative blood.
    Thank you.

    • Brian Mino

      Really? COMMONSENSE nsense most RH- have CCR 32 Delta 5 DUH!


Dr. Barry Starr

Dr. Barry Starr (@geneticsboy) is a Geneticist-in-Residence at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA and runs their Stanford at The Tech program. The program is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Stanford Department of Genetics and The Tech Museum of Innovation. Together these two partners created the Genetics: Technology with a Twist exhibition.

You can also see additional posts by Barry at KQED Science, and read his previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.

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