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Safe Food and Water for HIV Patients

Can I eat raw fruits and vegetables?

Yes. Raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat if you wash them carefully first. Wash, then peel fruit that you will eat raw. Eating raw alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes can cause illness, but washing them well can reduce your risk of illness.

How can I make my water safe?

  • Don't drink water straight from lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.
  • Because you cannot be sure if your tap water is safe, you may wish to avoid tap water, including water or ice from a refrigerator ice-maker, which is made with tap water. Always check with the local health department and water utility to see if they have issued any special notices for people with HIV about tap water.
  • You may also wish to boil or filter your water, or to drink bottled water. Processed carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles should be safe, but drinks made at a fountain might not be because they are made with tap water. If you choose to boil or filter your water or to drink only bottled water, do this all the time, not just at home.
  • Boiling is the best way to kill germs in your water. Heat your water at a rolling boil for 1 minute. After the boiled water cools, put it in a clean bottle or pitcher with a lid and store it in the refrigerator. Use the water for drinking, cooking, or making ice. Water bottles and ice trays should be cleaned with soap and water before use. Don't touch the inside of them after cleaning. If you can, clean your water bottles and ice trays yourself.

What should I do when shopping for food?

  • Read food labels carefully. Be sure that all dairy products that you purchase have been pasteurized. Do not buy any food that contains raw or undercooked meat or eggs if it is meant to be eaten raw. Be sure that the "sell by" date has not passed.
  • Put packaged meat, poultry, or fish in separate plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other groceries or each other.
  • Check the package that the food comes in to make sure that it isn't damaged.
  • Do not buy food that has been displayed in unsafe or unclean conditions. Examples include meat that is allowed to sit without refrigeration or cooked shrimp that is displayed with raw shrimp.
  • After shopping, put all cold and frozen foods into your refrigerator or freezer as soon as you can. Do not leave food sitting in the car. Keeping cold or frozen food out of refrigeration for even a couple of hours can give germs a chance to grow.

Is it safe for me to eat in restaurants?

Yes. Like grocery stores, restaurants follow guidelines for cleanliness and good hygiene set by the health department. However, you should follow these general rules in restaurants:

  • Order all food well done. If meat is served pink or bloody, send it back to the kitchen for more cooking. Fish should be flaky, not rubbery, when you cut it.
  • Order fried eggs cooked on both sides. Avoid eggs that are "sunny-side up." Scrambled eggs should be cooked until they are not runny. Do not order foods that may contain raw eggs, such as Caesar salad or hollandaise sauce. If you aren't sure about the ingredients in a dish, ask your waiter before you order.
  • Do not order any raw or lightly steamed fish or shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels, sushi, or sashimi. All fish should be cooked until done.

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