Restaurant aims to smash stigma surrounding HIV

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A file photo shows the Toronto skyline. Wikimedia/Christian Raul Hernandez CC BY SA

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A group of Canadian gourmets is hoping to smash misconceptions about HIV transmission one plate at the time by opening a pop-up restaurant run entirely by staff infected with the virus.

Located in Toronto, the restaurant called June’s last Tuesday was serving its first meals prepared by HIV-positive cooks to dispel any notion that food preparation can spread the virus.

Wearing aprons printed with such messages as “Kiss the HIV+ cook” and “I got HIV from pasta. Said no one ever”, June’s 14 HIV-positive cooks will be serving customers who prepaid to reserve their tables.

The idea of June’s came in response to a survey last month that found only half of Canadians would eat food prepared by someone with HIV.

The survey was conducted by Casey House, a non-profit that planned the pop-up, or temporary, restaurant, said the group’s head Joanne Simons. Casey House provides health care for people with HIV/AIDS.

HIV is spread when infected fluid enters the bloodstream, but not by sharing food, according to health authorities.

June’s was open just two days, serving 200 customers who bought reserved tickets for C$125 ($98), Simons said.

The tickets sold out in less than two weeks and, with such strong demand, another restaurant run by HIV-positive staff may be in the offing, she said.

“We’d love to be able to do it in places like New York and San Francisco and London,” Simons said.

The menu features such items as northern Thai potato leek soup and ginger-bread tiramisu, she said.

Since 2005, HIV incidence in Canada appears to be declining, according to a 2015 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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