Friday, December 1, 2017, was World AIDS Day. Canada-based Casey House is the world’s only hospital dedicated to treating those living with HIV/AIDS. The work of breaking the stigma around HIV/AIDS is an ongoing challenge, but Canadian chefs are dispelling the stigma—one dish at a time—that people with HIV/AIDS experience in their daily lives. In November, Casey House opened the doors to June’s Eatery, Canada’s first pop-up restaurant run by HIV-positive chefs.

You can’t get HIV from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person.
– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Chef Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro led the team of 14 HIV-positive individuals-turned-cooks in the pop-up restaurant, collaborating with the cooks on the menu as they built a four-course meal featuring their favorite ingredients. Chef Basile also led the team through a training session on kitchen skills and food preparation fundamentals.

“We explored this stigma through a study we conducted as part of our campaign Break Bread. Smash Stigma. The study revealed that only half of Canadians would knowingly share or eat food prepared by someone who is HIV positive, despite the fact you cannot transmit the disease through food preparation,” said Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House. “My hope for June’s [is] that the experience leaves a lasting impression and will help to continue to break down barriers around stigma….”

The three-day pop-up restaurant took aim at the misconceptions around people living with HIV/AIDS by using cooks who were all HIV positive. The event was a huge success. It was completely sold out and Casey House is looking to expand June’s into other markets.

Casey House Reveals New Stats for World AIDS Day

In partnership with Ipsos and Leger Research Intelligence Group, the latest Smash Stigma Study found that 54 percent of Americans wouldn’t eat food knowingly prepared by HIV+ chefs while 70 percent of Canadians, if tested HIV positive, would be nervous or ashamed to share their health news openly.