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AIDS and Food Safety share a crucial connection

December 1, 2013 was World AIDS Day and while the connection between HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) and food safety may not seem obvious, it’s actually crucial. People with HIV/AIDS) are highly susceptible to many types of infection, including those can be brought on by the disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illness.basket full of vegetables and produce

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) points out that a healthy, functioning immune system works to clear infection and other foreign agents from your body. When the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that causes AIDS damages or destroys the body’s immune system, people with the condition become highly vulnerable to infection. Especially for people with HIV/AIDS, food that is not handled safely can be the route for infections that result in lengthy illnesses, hospitalizations, or even death. This increased risk underscores the critical role safe food handling plays in managing HIV/AIDS.

Making Wise Food Choices

Some foods are more risky for people with HIV/AIDS than others. In general, the foods that are most likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses fall into two categories:

  • Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Some animal products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk; soft cheeses made with raw milk; and raw or undercooked eggs, raw meat, raw poultry, raw fish, raw shellfish and their juices; luncheon meats and deli-type salads (without added preservatives) prepared on site in a deli-type establishment.

The risk these foods may actually pose depends on the origin or source of the food and how the food is processed, stored, and prepared.

For practical guidance to safe selection and preparation of foods for people with HIV/AIDS, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have prepared a free downloadable booklet called Food Safety for People with HIV/AIDS. It is also available free by calling 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854) or emailing

Follow the Four Basic Steps to Food Safety

Anyone who has HIV/AIDS or who prepares food for people with the condition should also carefully follow these steps:

  1. CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often.  Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.
  2. SEPARATE: Separate raw meats from other foods.  Cross-contamination can occur when bacteria are spread from one food product to another.  This is especially common when handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.  The key is to keep these foods—and their juices—away from ready-to-eat foods.
  3. COOK to the right temperatures.  Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness.
  4. CHILL foods promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is 40ºF or below and the freezer temperature is 0ºF or below.
Posted in: IllnessTagged: AIDS | HIV | Infection