We all want to be sure our food is safe to eat, but for people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it’s especially important. Because HIV weakens your immune system, you are more likely to develop infections from food and water that may be contaminated by disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites. But eating safely doesn’t have to be hard. You can develop a simple food safety routine by following some basic steps. Food Handling and Preparation When preparing your meals, it’s important to not only make sure your food is as fresh and clean as possible, but to keep your cooking utensils and surfaces clean, as well. This will help reduce the risk of germs from possible contaminated foods. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before preparing or handling food. Clean cooking and prep areas often with warm water and soap. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with warm water and a fruit and vegetable wash. You can purchase this at your local grocery store. Use a separate cutting board, utensils and dishes for raw foods. You may want to designate fish and meats for one color utensil or cutting board and vegetables for another color. Wash dishes and utensils after each use. Wash hands well with soap and warm water after handling food. When buying raw meats or seafood, have them put on ice for the trip home. Chill raw foods immediately after bringing them home. If you have meals delivered that you don’t plan to eat right away, refrigerate them immediately until ready to eat. Set your refrigerator no higher than 40 degrees F. Set your freezer to 0 degrees. Get in the habit of checking expiration dates on food packaging. Do not eat foods past their expiration date. Never thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Once food reaches a certain temperature, bacteria will begin to grow. You can thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave. Throw away any moldy or rotten foods, or foods you think might be old. When in doubt, throw it out. Cooking and Eating Certain raw and undercooked foods can lead to bacteria and food-borne illness, so be sure your foods are fully cooked, even when reheating leftovers. Cook all meats and seafood until “well-done.” You can test this by placing a cooking thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (not touching a bone). Make sure the thermometer reaches 165 – 212 degrees F. When heating food, use a cooking thermometer to make sure the food is at 165 degrees F. You can buy one at your local grocery store. Bring soups and gravies to a rolling boil. When reheating food in the microwave, cover the dish and rotate it so the food heats evenly. This will help prevent cold spots, which can harbor bacteria. Do not eat sushi, raw seafood, raw meats or unpasteurized milk or dairy products, which can harbor disease-causing bacteria. Eggs that aren’t fully cooked can also be contaminated. Do not eat raw, soft-boiled or over-easy eggs. Also avoid Caesar salad dressing, cookie dough and cake batter that contains uncooked eggs. Never leave food out at room temperature. Chill any leftovers within two hours (within one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees F). Again, when in doubt, throw it out. Discard any leftovers after three days. Water Safety Water can also carry a variety of bacteria, parasites or viruses, so it’s important to pay attention to the water you drink to reduce the risk of illness or infection. Use a water filter at home. This helps to remove particles from your water source, such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses and chemicals. You can install a filter next to your faucet, or buy one with a water pitcher to keep on the kitchen counter. You can also use bottled water or boil water for drinking and cooking. Boiling your water may take more time, but it can significantly reduce your risk of water-borne illness. When traveling abroad to areas that may have poor sanitation, or if you are unsure about the water conditions, drink only bottled water and avoid ice and unpasteurized juices and drinks. Do not drink from lakes, ponds, rivers or streams, or any water sources that you think may be unfiltered. If you are unsure about the safety of certain foods or how to prepare them, it’s best to avoid them until you have a chance to talk to your doctor. The more you know, the easier it will be to make food safety a routine part of your meal planning and live well with HIV.