WASHINGTON, D.C.—A hoax e-mail using Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide letterhead created a stir this week with claims that a survey had found extraordinarily high rates of rates of HIV infection among students in Washington, D.C., high schools after mandatory testing during building lock-ins. The firm was quick to issue a statement challenging the veracity of the e-mail, which Washington managing director Robert Mathias said had spread virally.
Five schools in the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Alexandria were identified as having conducted the lock-ins earlier this year. It was claimed thattudents were not allowed to leave without being tested, and that the tests found infection rates of between 48 percent and 89 percent. The school systems involved denounced the release as “a malicious hoax.”
Ogilvy, which has a 25-year history of involvement with AIDS education, said it had launched an investigation after receiving several telephone calls on the subject.
“We have not distributed any statement on our behalf or any of our client’s behalf on this issue, and we do not know the author of this statement,” the firm said in a statement posted to its website. “We are seeking to identify what individuals or organizations are the source of this document and will be demanding a cessation to unauthorized use of our letterhead for this unapproved purpose.
“This is a serious issue for us….The distribution of false information concerns us deeply, and we are working with all local officials, school superintendents and principals and parents to stop further distribution of this false document.”