Friday, a news report from an NBC affiliate in New York circulated the web via blogs claiming that police were searching for a man named Isaac Don Burks for intentionally spreading HIV in the NY Tri-State area. Over the weekend the story spread like wildfire via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, even Michael Baisden and Steve Harvey shared the "story". On Monday, the original source was called into question when the link being shared redirected to an Augusta news site.
The original source came from a fake site made to look like the NBC New York 4 website. The slight difference was in the domain. The real NBC affiliate's domain is www.nbcnewyork.com the fake site used www.nbcnewyork4.com. The original story url still shows up in Google search as http://nbcnewyork4.com/news/local/fugitive-wanted-for-intentionally-spre... yet you no longer go to the original report. Instead, when you click on the link you are directed to an Augusta story about the same man, but for a different incident in 2010 involving identity fraud and forgery.
Once the site redirect happened, people began to question the validity of the report. On Monday, the victim of the hoax issued a statement via his Facebook page stating that he will "pray 4 the person or persons responsible for creating a false story about me spreading HIV to hundreds of people."
Burks went on to express his sadness over the situation due to witnessing what HIV and AIDS does to a person, “I would love to get on here and bash every lie and false story that is floating around, but [I] have a life to live. I have friends and family who know and love me dearly and are in my corner. I am not a person who would intentionally bring pain and hurt to anyones life. I have seen what this disease does to people first hand losing my best-friend to this at such a young age. It baffles me to think that someone would actually have so much hate in their heart to make a [fictitious] news article and take my past experiences to add more significance to the story."
A newer version of the false report is now circulating using information from Burks' 2010 incident to tie into the false HIV story. However, this version made a mistake by mentioning a quote implying it came from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This Examiner decided to contact the department to verify if indeed they issued a statement about this story and if it was true. Veronica Lewin, Assistant Press Secretary for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, contacted me via email and telephone to advise they were informed about the story and that it is indeed a hoax.
Even though this story has been proved to be false, many will still share the false report. Let’s hope damage done by this malicious false report won’t have a lasting effect on the life of Mr. Burks. If you want o verify that the viral report is a hoax you can contact the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene via email at Pressoffice@health.nyc.gov/.