- You can protect yourself from many infections by preparing food and
- Meat, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), and fish can make you
sick if they are raw, undercooked, or spoiled.
- Raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat if you wash them carefully
- Don’t drink water straight from lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.
Why should I be careful about food and water?
Food and water can carry germs that cause illness. Germs in food or water
may cause serious infections in people with HIV. You can protect yourself
from many infections by preparing food and drinks properly.
What illnesses caused by germs in food and water do people with HIV commonly
Germs in food and water that can make someone with HIV ill include Salmonella,
Campylobacter, Listeria and Cryptosporidium. They can cause diarrhea, upset
stomach, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, headache, muscle pain, bloodstream
infection, meningitis, or encephalitis.
Do only people with HIV get these illnesses?
No, they can occur in anyone. However, these illnesses are much more common in
people with HIV.
Are these illnesses the same in people with HIV as in other people?
No. The diarrhea and nausea are often much worse and more difficult to treat in
people with HIV. These illnesses are also more likely to cause serious problems
in people with HIV, such as bloodstream infections and meningitis. People with
HIV also have a harder time recovering fully from these illnesses.
If I have HIV, can I eat meat, poultry, and fish?
Yes. Meat, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), and fish can make you sick only
if they are raw, undercooked, or spoiled.
To avoid illness:
Cook all meat and poultry until they are no longer pink in the
middle. If you use a meat thermometer, the temperature inside the meat
or poultry should be over 165° F. Fish should be cooked until it is
flaky, not rubbery.
- After handling raw meat, poultry, and fish, wash your hands well
with soap and water before you touch any other food.
- Thoroughly wash cutting boards, cooking utensils, and countertops
with soap and hot water after they have had contact with raw meat,
poultry, or fish.
- Do not let uncooked meat, poultry, or fish or their juices touch
other food or each other.
- Do not let meat, poultry, or fish sit at room temperature for more
than a few minutes. Keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to
- Eat or drink only pasteurized milk or dairy products.
Can I eat eggs if I have HIV?
Yes. Eggs are safe to eat if they are well cooked. Cook eggs until the yolk and
white are solid, not runny. Do not eat foods that may contain raw eggs, such as
hollandaise sauce, cookie dough, homemade mayonnaise, and Caesar salad dressing.
If you prepare these foods at home, use pasteurized eggs instead of eggs in the
shell. You can find pasteurized eggs in the dairy case at your supermarket.
Can I eat raw fruits and vegetables?
Yes. Raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat if you wash them carefully first.
Wash, then peel fruit that you will eat raw. Eating raw alfalfa sprouts and
tomatoes can cause illness, but washing them well can reduce your risk of
How can I make my water safe?
Don’t drink water straight from lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.
Because you cannot be sure if your tap water is safe, you may wish to avoid tap
water, including water or ice from a refrigerator ice-maker, which is made with
tap water. Always check with the local health department and water utility to
see if they have issued any special notices for people with HIV about tap water.
You may also wish to boil or filter your water, or to drink bottled water.
Processed carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles should be safe,
but drinks made at a fountain might not be because they are made with tap water.
If you choose to boil or filter your water or to drink only bottled water, do
this all the time, not just at home.
Boiling is the best way to kill germs in your water. Heat your water at a
rolling boil for 1 minute. After the boiled water cools, put it in a clean
bottle or pitcher with a lid and store it in the refrigerator. Use the water for
drinking, cooking, or making ice. Water bottles and ice trays should be cleaned
with soap and water before use. Don’t touch the inside of them after cleaning.
If you can, clean your water bottles and ice trays yourself.
What should I do when shopping for food?
Read food labels carefully. Be sure that all dairy products that you purchase
have been pasteurized. Do not buy any food that contains raw or undercooked meat
or eggs if it is meant to be eaten raw. Be sure that the "sell by" date has not
Put packaged meat, poultry, or fish in separate plastic bags to prevent their
juices from dripping onto other groceries or each other.
Check the package that the food comes in to make sure that it isn’t damaged.
Do not buy food that has been displayed in unsafe or unclean conditions.
Examples include meat that is allowed to sit without refrigeration or cooked
shrimp that is displayed with raw shrimp.
After shopping, put all cold and frozen foods into your refrigerator or freezer
as soon as you can. Do not leave food sitting in the car. Keeping cold or frozen
food out of refrigeration for even a couple of hours can give germs a chance to
Is it safe for me to eat in restaurants?
Yes. Like grocery stores, restaurants follow guidelines for cleanliness and good
hygiene set by the health department. However, you should follow these general
rules in restaurants:
- Order all food well done. If meat is served pink or bloody, send
it back to the kitchen for more cooking. Fish should be flaky, not
rubbery, when you cut it.
- Order fried eggs cooked on both sides. Avoid eggs that are
"sunny-side up." Scrambled eggs should be cooked until they are not
runny. Do not order foods that may contain raw eggs, such as Caesar
salad or hollandaise sauce. If you aren’t sure about the ingredients
in a dish, ask your waiter before you order.
- Do not order any raw or lightly steamed fish or shellfish, such
as oysters, clams, mussels, sushi, or sashimi. All fish should be
cooked until done.
Should I take special measures with food and water in other countries?
Yes. Not all countries have high standards of food hygiene. You need to take
special care abroad, particularly in developing countries. Follow these rules
when in other countries:
- Do not eat uncooked fruits and vegetables unless you can
peel them. Avoid salads.
- Eat cooked foods while they are still hot.
- Boil all water before drinking it. Use only ice made from
boiled water. Drink only canned or bottled drinks or beverages
made with boiled water.
- Steaming-hot foods, fruits you peel yourself, bottled and
canned processed drinks, and hot coffee or tea should be safe.
- Talk with your health care provider about other advice on
Free referrals and information:
In English, en Español
8A-8P (EST) M-F. Closed weekends and major federal holidays.
Order single copies of this and other HIV/AIDS documents.
Free HIV/AIDS treatment information:
Drugs undergoing clinical trials:
Social Security benefits:
Social Security Administration
(You also may request a personal earnings and
benefit estimate statement to help you estimate the
retirement, disability, and survivor benefits payable
on your Social Security record.)
Child Health Insurance Program
1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669)
CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention Internet
Additional brochures in the Opportunistic Infections
*Use of trade names does not imply endorsement by the
United States Department of Health and Human Services.