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FACT CHECK: No evidence HIV can survive in fish – DOH

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FACT CHECK: No evidence HIV can survive in fish – DOH
The Department of Health in Northern Mindanao debunks a claim that hundreds died in the region from eating fish contaminated with the human immunodeficiency virus

Claim: Hundreds of people in Northern Mindanao have died from eating fish contaminated with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to a hospital’s improper disposal of infected tubes. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim started circulating on Facebook on June 15, 2024. The latest post on June 18 has 90 shares, 154 comments, and 101 reactions as of writing. 

The post says: “Palihug kog basa para safe tang tanan. Day pahibalo ang tanan bawal sa ta magkaun isda karun kay ang dagat gilabayan ug tube sa hospital nga gikan sa mga h.i.v.  daghan na kaau nanga matay diri cdo 372 iligan 24 gingoog 18 valencia 18 maramag 18 opol 11 mao na ang nangaigo sa ngkaun ug isda busa kamo ayaw sa mo kaun isda ipasa sa tanan para makabalo sila.”

(Please read this to keep everyone safe. Everyone should know that eating fish now is not allowed because the sea is contaminated with tubes from a hospital that used to have HIV cases. Many people have already died here in CDO 372, Iligan 24, Gingoog 18, Valencia 18, Maramag 18, and Opol 11. So, don’t eat fish and pass this message to everyone so they know.)

The facts: The Department of Health Northern Mindanao (DOH X) debunked the post in an advisory released on June 15

“There is no evidence that HIV can survive in fish. HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, mosquito bites, or sharing or consuming food, drinks, or utensils with an infected individual,” the DOH said.

The department added that HIV is “primarily transmitted through specific bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.” 

“The most common modes of HIV transmission include unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing contaminated needles or syringes, and transmission from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding,” the DOH said. 

The department also clarified that, based on April 2024 data, only two HIV-related deaths were recorded in the region.


Revived claim: The misleading post revived a similar claim that circulated four years ago. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Northern Mindanao, DOH X, and then-health secretary Francisco Duque III debunked the misleading post, saying the claim was “impossible” since the virus causing HIV cannot live outside the human body and does not transfer to fish. 

Rappler has debunked similar claims in 2021 and 2023:

– Ailla dela Cruz/

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time. 

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