Preparing Food Rules for HIV

In shopping for, storing, preparing, and serving food, there are several basic rules to remember:

  • Select only the freshest possible foods, especially meat, fish, and dairy products. If you purchase canned goods, make sure that the cans are not bulging or dented, and do not have open safety seals. Take food straight home and refrigerate it. Raw meat should not be kept in the refrigerator for more than three or four days. Frozen meats can be kept for up to six months.
  • Always wash your hands carefully, using lots of hot, soapy water and hand rubbing (the scrubbing is an important part of getting rid of germs) before handling any food and also between handling different food items. If you have any open cuts or sores, do not let them come in contact with raw foods. Rubber gloves can provide protection. Even if you do not have obvious cuts or sores, you could have hairline cracks that could admit infection.
  • Keep food preparation surfaces such as counters and cutting boards extremely clean, using hot, soapy water, or, for counters, one of the antibacterial kitchen cleaners like Lysol. Do not ever use a cutting board that has been used for raw meat, fish, or poultry to prepare fruits, vegetables, or anything that won’t be thoroughly cooked.
  • Keep uncooked food juices (blood from meats, water from shrimp or seafood, etc.) from coming in contact with other foods.
  • Do not use the same rag or sponge for cleaning more than one surface. Use one for the counter, one for the dishes, and so on.
  • When preparing meals, use each cooking utensil for only one dish. Do not use the meat fork to toss your salad, or the gravy spoon to stir your vegetables.
  • Make sure meat, eggs, fish, and poultry are thoroughly cooked. When appropriate, use a meat thermometer to be sure they have reached an internal temperature of at least 1850F.
  • Always defrost food in the refrigerator, rather than leaving it out in a warm kitchen.
  • Serve food immediately, never allowing warm food to sit unattended for any length of time. Store food quickly. Do not leave heated food sitting around to “cool off”. Put it in storage containers and in the refrigerator quickly.
  •  Scrub fruits and vegetables with a stiff plastic brush, nylon net, or Teflon scrubbier.

Making Drinking Water Safe

For those living with CD4+ count fewer than 100, specific practices may help decrease the risk of several opportunistic infections. First, drinking water should be boiled or even better purified with a one-micron filter. With the recent outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis among uninfected people, this is good advice for everyone. This recommendation includes all bottled water, other than distilled water. Bottled spring water may be relatively uncontaminated by other toxins, but it can still contain infectious pathogens.

To properly sterilize water, bring it to a full, rolling boil and then maintain it at the rolling boil for a minimum of ten minutes. If you plan to store it in another container, make sure that container has been sterilized with boiling water. Use this water for drinking, rinsing foods, and brushing your teeth. Alternatively, some water purifiers are now available that, in addition to the solid-carbon-block filtering process (which mostly removes chlorine and other toxic chemicals), use ultraviolet light to destroy microorganism, killing both bacteria and viruses and eliminating Cryptosporidium and Giardia cyst.