As people around the world unite to fight HIV and show their support for those living with the virus on World AIDS Day today, FDA is reminding people with HIV/AIDS and those who prepare food for them, about the importance of safe food handling in preventing foodborne illness.

Practicing food safety is critical because the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can damage, or destroy the body's immune system, making those living with this disease more susceptible to foodborne illness. If a person with HIV/AIDS contracts a foodborne illness, the risk of lengthier illness, hospitalization or even death can increase.

“This increased risk underscores the critical role safe food handling plays in managing HIV/AIDS,” FDA says.

Some foods are more risky for people with HIV/AIDS because they are more likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses. In general, these foods fall into two categories:

-Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables

-Certain animal products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk; soft cheeses made with raw milk; and raw or undercooked eggs, raw meat, raw poultry, raw fish, raw shellfish and their juices; luncheon meats and deli-type salads (without added preservatives) prepared on site in a deli-type establishment.

FDA also advises following the Four Steps to Food Safety:

CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.

SEPARATE: Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

COOK to the right temperatures. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria.

CHILL foods promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees F or below and the freezer temperature is 0 degrees F or below.

Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later. Symptoms of foodborne illness include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, and body ache).

To learn about safe selection and preparation of foods for people with HIV/AIDS, download the free booklet Food Safety for People with HIV/AIDS:

Order a copy by calling 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854) or emailing