HIV, Food Safety and You

In 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the first World AIDS Day and every year since then, December 1st is recognized as World AIDS Day.  It is a time when everyone involved or affected by the disease pause to remember lost loved ones, be thankful for the individuals still living with the disease and renew hope to one day finding a cure.

Persons now living with the disease can expect to live a long and normal life if they take precautions to ensure their safety.  Practicing good food safety is a safety measure persons with HIV/AIDS must adhere to.  AIDS, by definition, means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome which means that the immune system is weakened and compromised making it very easy to contract common illnesses.  A person not infected with the HIV/AIDS virus may become sick with vomiting and diarrhea after eating contaminated food but with treatment, they will recover fairly quickly.  However, in the immune-compromised population, a case of food borne illness can cause severe harm.

It is important to remember that microbes or disease causing bacteria are everywhere and can easily be transferred to food.  Therefore, persons living with HIV/AIDS virus are usually asked to avoid all raw and undercooked foods especially if their viral load is high making them more susceptible to diseases.  As part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) prevention and education program, they ask consumers to follow four easy steps: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.


Everyone is encouraged to wash hands, food contact surfaces and foods like fruits and vegetables, with hot soapy water, often because bacteria can survive on my kitchen utensils.  Even peel-able fruits should be washed because bacteria can easily transfer from the fruit’s skin to the edible inside.


Raw foods like meat, fish or poultry should be kept separate from cooked foods or ready to eat foods.  Using separate cutting boards for meats, fruits and vegetables, washing hands and utensils after working with raw meats can helped to decrease the amount of disease causing bacteria.


All foods should be cooked properly to an internal temperature ranging from 140°F – 165°F depending on the type of meat being cooked.


Now that we are in the holiday season, this step is very important to remember.  All cooked foods should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours; especially foods that have milk, mayonnaise, eggs and meat.

Following these steps, can help to protect the already compromised immune systems of persons living with HIV/AIDS and make for a joyous holiday season.


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