A Guide for People Living with HIV/AIDS
When you’re living with HIV/AIDS, it’s important to follow a healthy diet to make sure you get the nutrients you need. HIV/AIDS makes you more vulnerable to foodborne illness, so it’s important to follow food safety advice and avoid eating foods that place you at higher risk.
Although Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world, there are still 11 to 13 million cases of foodborne illness across the country each year. That means your ability to stay healthy depends on what food you eat, how well you store your food at home, and how carefully you prepare it before you eat.
When you have HIV/AIDS:
- Your immune system is less able to clear infection and other foreign agents from your body. Just as HIV/AIDS make you more vulnerable to opportunistic infections like Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, it also increases your risk for foodborne illness.
- You’re more likely to stay sick for longer, enter hospital, or even die because of a foodborne illness.
- With a weaker immune system, you have to be more careful about handling, preparing, and eating food.
Persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) are particularly vulnerable to three types of bacteria: Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, and Listeria monocytogenes.
Salmonella, the most common cause of foodborne illness, is commonly found on raw or undercooked meats (especially poultry) and in eggs. Salmonellosis can affect anyone. But it’s almost 100 times more common in PLWHAs, can be particularly difficult to treat, and is more likely to lead to serious complications.
Campylobacter jejuni is sometimes found on food, especially raw poultry, in raw milk, and in contaminated drinking water. The resulting illness is about 35 times more common in PLWHAs.
Listeria monocytogenes is sometimes found in raw milk, soft cheeses, ready-to-eat foods like hot dogs and deli meats, and raw produce. Listeriosis is much more common in PLWHAs, usually severe, and often fatal.
Canada has stringent regulations in place to make sure the food we buy is free from contamination and safe to eat. Any business that produces or sells food—from farmers and food processors to supermarkets, delis, butchers, and restaurants—must meet these standards.
PLWHAs should also take special precautions when traveling abroad. Boil all water. Drink only canned or carbonated bottled drinks, or use beverages and ice made with boiled water. Avoid uncooked vegetables and salads, peel all fruit, make sure your food is cooked thoroughly, and eat it while it’s still hot.
As the consumer, once you buy a food product, you are the next link in the chain that keeps your food safe and healthy. This website will give you the information you need to guide you in choosing the right foods, and preparing and storing them safely.
What is a Foodborne Illness?
Foodborne illness is sometimes called “food poisoning.” It’s what happens when a person eats food contaminated with germs, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Depending on the type of germs and how many are in the food, symptoms of foodborne illness could include any or all of:
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headache and fever
Symptoms can begin a few hours or a few days after eating contaminated food. Foodborne illness does not usually last long. But while most people recover completely from foodborne illness, longer-term health effects can include kidney failure and anaemia.
Food Safety For Higher Risk Canadians is brought to you by the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) supported through an unrestricted educational grant from Maple Leaf Foods Inc.