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HIV & AIDS Health Center

Safe Food and Water for HIV Patients

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You can protect yourself from many infections by preparing food and drinks properly.

  • Meat, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), and fish can make you sick if they are raw, undercooked, or spoiled.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat if you wash them carefully first.
  • Don't drink water straight from lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.

Why should I be careful about food and water?

Food and water can carry germs that cause illness. Germs in food or water may cause serious infections in people with HIV. You can protect yourself from many infections by preparing food and drinks properly.

What illnesses caused by germs in food and water do people with HIV commonly get?

Germs in food and water that can make someone with HIV ill include Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and Cryptosporidium. They can cause diarrhea, upset stomach, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, headache, muscle pain, bloodstream infection, meningitis, or encephalitis.

Do only people with HIV get these illnesses?

No, they can occur in anyone. However, these illnesses are much more common in people with HIV.

Are these illnesses the same in people with HIV as in other people?

No. The diarrhea and nausea are often much worse and more difficult to treat in people with HIV. These illnesses are also more likely to cause serious problems in people with HIV, such as bloodstream infections and meningitis. People with HIV also have a harder time recovering fully from these illnesses.

If I have HIV, can I eat meat, poultry, and fish?

Yes. Meat, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), and fish can make you sick only if they are raw, undercooked, or spoiled. To avoid illness:

  • Cook all meat and poultry until they are no longer pink in the middle. If you use a meat thermometer, the temperature inside the meat or poultry should be over 165 degrees F. Fish should be cooked until it is flaky, not rubbery.
  • After handling raw meat, poultry, and fish, wash your hands well with soap and water before you touch any other food.
  • Thoroughly wash cutting boards, cooking utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water after they have had contact with raw meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Do not let uncooked meat, poultry, or fish or their juices touch other food or each other.
  • Do not let meat, poultry, or fish sit at room temperature for more than a few minutes. Keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.
  • Eat or drink only pasteurized milk or dairy products.
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