cleaning kitchen countertop
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Keep a Clean Kitchen

HIV makes it harder for your body to fight infections. And bacteria thrive in grime and clutter. Wipe down cooking surfaces and use only clean utensils, pots, and pans. Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before you touch any food.

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restaurant buffet
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Skip the Buffet

It can be a smorgasbord of not just good eats, but also a swarm of germs and viruses. You can’t know who’s touched what, so it’s best to pass on the bites. The same goes for potlucks, tailgate parties, and free samples at food courts or grocery stores.

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food product expiration date
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Heed Expiration Dates

The “sell by” dates on packaged foods tell you when a food is safest to eat. Don’t buy or eat expired foods -- they’re more likely to harbor pathogens. On the other hand, “best if used by” or “use by” dates are the manufacturer’s deadline for peak flavor or quality. They’re unrelated to safety.

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rinsing greens
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Rinse Again

You may be tempted to throw that “triple-washed” spinach straight into the salad bowl. But when you’re HIV-positive, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Grab a colander and wash off packaged produce, even if the label says it’s “ready to eat.”

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meat thawing in refrigerator
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Thaw Carefully

De-ice your frozen meats in the refrigerator or in a microwave, never on the kitchen counter. Germs that grow on food at room temperature, including salmonella and E. coli, can make you dangerously ill.

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meat thermometer
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Cook Completely

A weakened immune system doesn’t mix well with medium or rare meats. Well-done is the best way to kill all bacteria before you lift your fork. Keep a meat thermometer handy to track the temperature as you cook, and get it up to an internal reading of 165–212 F (at least 180 F for poultry).

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server in restaurant
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Tips for Eating Out

Dining out doesn’t have to be off the table just because you have HIV. Still, it’s a good idea to scope out the restaurant. Ask your server about how they cook and prepare the dishes. At fast-food joints, go for fresh-made options and skip raw fruits and veggies. Use single-serve ketchup and other condiments.

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pouring glass from water bottle
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Drink Wisely

Water and beverages can harbor harmful germs. So sip water only from a safe source like the city or municipal tap, or in bottles. Stay away from fruit and vegetable juices, ciders, and milk that are raw, or haven’t been pasteurized with heat to kill pathogens.

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food containers in freezer
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Leftover Smarts

You may get food poisoning from eating something that’s been left out too long or not stored right. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers right away to keep parasites from growing. Toss foods that have been at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour outdoors during hot weather.

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cleaning cutting board
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Curb Cross-Contamination

This is when bacteria from one food get on another item. Meats, poultry, and eggs are top offenders. They often leave behind juices as you handle them, so clean surfaces thoroughly after you handle them. Pro tip: Reserve one cutting board just for meats and another for fruits and veggies.

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shopping for eggs
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Produce Shopping

Check fruits and veggies for signs of mold, slime, or off color. They may signal that bacteria are aboard. Be sure meats are in well-sealed packages. Inspect eggs for any cracks before you buy.

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foods triptych
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Good Foods, Bad Foods

Your body needs extra nutrients to ward off infections. So load up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein like fish and chicken. Steer clear of foods that are more likely to sneak bacteria and parasites into your body, especially when your white blood cell count is low. Those include raw eggs, deli meat, sushi, and soft cheeses.

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emptying kitchen trash can
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When to Toss It

If you even suspect that something might be spoiled, put it in the trash. No food or drink is worth taking a chance with if you live with HIV.

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woman with upset stomach
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Signs of Food Sickness

If foodborne bacteria or parasites do make it into your body, you’ll usually notice symptoms within 2-3 hours. But it sometimes can take days or even weeks for you to feel sick. The most common signs are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, fever, and chills.

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doctor on telephone
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When to Get Help

If you think you might have food poisoning, call your doctor right away. Keep and freeze any food you suspect made you sick, including the packaging. When you have HIV, the sooner and more information your doctor gets, the better they can help you.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/17/2019 Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 17, 2019


1) Wavebreakmedia Ltd / Getty Images

2) VictorHuang / Getty Images

3) WebMD

4) Tay Jnr / Thinkstock

5) cookelma / Getty Images

6) aengkiak / Getty Images

7) PavelVinnik / Getty Images

8) demaerre / Getty Images

9) Pixtal / Photolibrary

10) tenmay / Getty Images

11) sergeyryzhov /Getty Images

12) (Left to right)  Serg_Velusceac / Getty Images, yulka3ice / Getty Images, Jag_cz / Getty Images

13) mokee81 / Getty Images

14) Ratree Khotchalee / Getty Images

15) Wavebreakmedia Ltd / Thinkstock



Government of Canada: “Food safety for people with a weakened immune system.”

FDA: “Food Safety for People with HIV/AIDS.”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “HIV/AIDS.”

American Cancer Society: “For people with weakened immune systems.” “Nutrition.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Danger Zone” (40 °F - 140 °F).”

CDC: “Raw (Unpasteurized) Milk.” “Eating When You Have a Weakened Immune System.”

International Dairy Foods Association: “Pasteurization.”

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 17, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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