To assess perceptions of risk of AIDS/HIV infection from donation to, and receipt of, blood from the British Blood Transfusion Service, we undertook self completion surveys (n = 1874, response rate 74%) and an interview survey (n = 300, response rate 77%) of students in three higher/further education establishments in the North East of England. In the postal survey 20.9% perceived a risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS after blood donation, and 4.8% perceived the risk to be moderate or high. Explanations for the perceived risk were usually inaccurate. Most people (62.3%) perceived that blood transfusion had a risk of HIV infection, and 13.4% reported this risk to be moderate or high. The explanations for the risk were generally correct. The interview survey largely confirmed the results of the postal survey. The perceived risk of contracting HIV infection on blood donation is not an artefact of survey method; a substantial minority perceive a risk where there is none. Some people remain unaware of the risk of HIV infection after blood transfusion and among others the risk is perceived as higher than is realistic. Further research and educational initiatives to help safeguard the efficient gathering and use of blood are warranted.