Just over half of Americans say they would not eat a meal made by a person who is HIV+, according to a survey by Casey House, an HIV hospital in Toronto. To fight that stigma and misinformation, the nonprofit opened a pop-up restaurant where all of the cooks are HIV+.
Still, to quell fears, we asked Paul Volberding, M.D., director of the AIDS Research Institute at the University of California at San Francisco, if there would be any way to get HIV from food prepared by someone with the virus.
Do you have concerns about food cooked or served by someone who is HIV+?
No. Most people have likely already been served by an HIV+ person, didn’t know it, and didn’t contract the virus. That’s because HIV is transferred only from fluids to fluids—blood to blood or through sex.
But what if the chef cut herself?
The majority of people with HIV are on treatment and have an undetectable amount of the virus in their blood, making it unable to infect you. Still, if the chef cut herself, she would stop cooking, toss the food, dress her wound, and sanitize the area, as any chef would.
And if she didn’t notice that she had cut herself?
Even if a small amount of blood gets into the food without anyone noticing, the kitchen environment is inhospitable to the virus.
Inhospitable meaning what, exactly?
Kitchen exposure to air and heat while cooking would kill the virus.
And if the chef’s blood somehow got on cold food, like a salad?
Since the food is consumed by mouth, not an open cut, your stomach acid would kill the virus as it goes through your digestive system.
What if you, the customer, had a cut in your mouth?
Even so, it’s impossible for such a small amount of blood to make it inside there and infect you. It’s like trying to hit a bull’s-eye in outer space with an arrow—impossible.
Has anyone anywhere ever gotten HIV from food prepared by a person with HIV?
No. No one has ever contracted HIV via food prep. There is zero risk of HIV transmission.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Women’s Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!