MANILA -- Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said one cannot be infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by eating fish from supposedly contaminated waters.

Duque made this remark in response to social media posts warning the public against buying and eating fish from Visayas and Mindanao where syringes suspected of being used for HIV-AIDS treatment were thrown.

"Ang virus na sanhi ng HIV-AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) 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 pwedeng lumipat sa isda kaya nga tinawag nating (The virus causing HIV-AIDS doesn't live outside the human body, especially if it goes to salty water and under the sun, this cannot transfer to fish that's why we call it) human immuno deficiency virus," he said in a radio interview.

He called on the public to double-check reports and not to spread fear on social media.

"Alam mo naman dahil sa social media ay marami nang mga taong empowered maglagay ng kung anu-ano at ang mga taong walang ginagawa ay pini-pick up ito at kinakalat din. Dapat magsipag tayo at gumawa tayo ng mga bagay na makakatulong imbis na magbibigay ng takot o alinlangan sa ating mga kababayan hinggil sa sakit (You know because of social media many are empowered to post anything and people pick it up and share it. We should be diligent in doing things that can help and not spread fear or worries to our fellowmen about the disease)," he said.

In the Philippines, Duque said the number of HIV cases is increasing, but this is being addressed.

Latest figures from the DOH showed there were 1,072 new cases of HIV in the Philippines as of October 2018. Of this number, 306 are age 15 to 24 years old.

The percentage of youth getting infected with HIV has increased to 29 percent from 13 percent over the last decade.

"Mayroong tumataas na bilang nito. Ito ay tinutugunan naman at mayroong ding bagong HIV-AIDS Act na may maraming probisyon na makatutulong maging mas epektibo ang implementasyon ng batas para mapigilan ang HIV-AIDS epidemic kung magkaroon man (It has increasing cases, these are being addressed and there is a new HIV-AIDS Act with provisions which can help in implementing the law to prevent HIV-AIDS epidemic if there's one)," Duque said. (PNA)