World AIDS Day: Focus On Food Safety


December 1, 2014 is World AIDS Day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds people with HIV/AIDS (and those preparing food for them) about the importance of safe food handling in preventing foodborne illness.

Food safety is critical because the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can damage, or destroy, the body’s immune system. As a result, those living with this disease are highly susceptible to many types of infection, including infections brought on by bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illness (often called “food poisoning”). If a person with HIV/AIDS contracts a foodborne illness, he or she is also more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die.  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 because they are most likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses. In general, these foods fall into two categories:

  • Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Certain 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 for 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 for 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.
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