MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) dismissed rumors that geckos or 'tuko' can cure AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and warned the public against consuming the geckos.
The DOH was compelled to release a statement as the illegal trade of buying and selling geckos in the country continues to thrive.
Speculations have been circulating that enzymes produced from the geckos' gall bladders can cure AIDS.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona expressed concern that the public may resort to alternative medicine rather than seek help from health experts.
“Palagay ko mas nakakasama pa ito sa ating mga kabababayan dahil rather than going into ‘yung mga gamot na makakatulong sa kanila, e baka ito pa ang binibili nila,” said Ona.
A specialist on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) also dispelled the rumor.
“There are no scientific evidence that is published on the Internet or even in our journals or books saying that ang enzymes na galing sa tuko (gecko) ay nakakagamot nga,” Dr. Jose Gerald Belimac said.
The demand for geckos reportedly soared when a Malaysian went on the prowl for geckos in Misamis Oriental.
Residents of the province began collecting geckos as reports spread that large geckos sell for P400,000 per kilo, becoming a cause for alarm for the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The trading of geckos also erupted on the Internet, particularly on the buy-and-sell website Sulit.com.
One user of the site posted an ad offering P60 million for a 500-gram gecko.
A fan page on social networking site Facebook also featured a bidding page for geckos.
One Facebook user posted an ad, selling 2 geckos weighing 250 grams for P80,000 each.
The underground market has become a cause of concern especially since misinformation gave the market its legs.
“Walang nagpo-promote na may alam tungkol sa HIV or AIDS ang paggamit ng tuko. Sa katunayan, bawal sa ating bansa ang magkalat ng maling impormasyon,” said Chairperson Jonas Bagas of TLF-SHARE (Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators), a member of Philippine National Aids Council.
Bagas was referring to Republic Act 8504, which states that individuals who spread misleading information can be imprisoned for 2 years.
“Wala pa akiong nakikita o naririnig na any proof of that so I would call it a folkloric tale or a grandmother’s tale,” Ona said.