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FACT CHECK: ‘HIV-infected’ fish not killing hundreds in Northern Mindanao

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FACT CHECK: ‘HIV-infected’ fish not killing hundreds in Northern Mindanao
Northern Mindanao health and fisheries officials had debunked the claim as early as 2019, when it first circulated

Claim: Hundreds of people died in Northern Mindanao after consuming fish caught in an area where hospital tubes contaminated with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) had been discarded.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook post bearing the claim and posted on November 4, has 152 shares, 25 reactions, and 18 comments, as of writing. The claim has also been reposted by several Facebook accounts. 

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 misleading post revived a similar claim that first circulated four years ago. In January 2019, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Northern Mindanao (BFAR-10) debunked a similar claim made in a Facebook post.

Teodoro Bacolod Jr., former director of BFAR Northern Mindanao, denied the claim in a statement. Bacolod assured the public of the safe consumption of fish from their region, and explained that HIV transmission through fish consumption is impossible in the first place. He also denied the alleged deaths in Cagayan de Oro as mentioned in the post. 

In January 2019, then-health chief Francisco Duque III also disproved claims that humans could get infected with HIV by eating fish from contaminated waters. He said that the virus can only survive in the human body. 

“Ang virus na sanhi ng HIV-AIDS ay hindi nabubuhay sa labas ng katawan ng tao, at lalo na kung iyan ay mapupunta sa tubig na maasin at maarawan, ay hindi ito puwedeng lumipat sa isda kaya nga tinawag nating human immunodeficiency virus,” Duque said then.

(The virus that causes HIV-AIDS does not live outside the human body, and especially if it gets into salt water and is exposed to the sun, it cannot be transmitted to fish that’s precisely why we call it human immunodeficiency virus.)

An official of the Department of Health in Northern Mindanao (DOH-10) also called out the disinformation in 2019, saying the virus only affects humans and not fish. 

“There’s a reason why the H in HIV is human because the virus only affects human and not fishes, the virus does not transfer in fishes,” Dr. Dave Mendoza of DOH-10 had said. 

HIV transmission: According to the World Health Organization, the virus can be transmitted through an exchange of body fluids from people with HIV. This includes blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal secretions. It can also be passed by the mother to her child during pregnancy. 

Day-to-day contact – such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food, or water – does not spread the virus.

Fact-checked: Rappler has fact-checked a similar claim in 2021. (READ: FALSE: Eating fish prohibited due to medical wastes found at sea) – Ailla dela Cruz/

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