Restaurant Staffed By Only HIV-Positive Chefs To Breakdown Myths

(Photo credit:

Would you eat from a restaurant that had an HIV-positive chef or if the people that served you had HIV?

The logical thing would be to say yes, since you can’t catch HIV from casual contact, but there are many stigmas still out there that would have a lot people say not to eating food from a HIV positive chef. Some others still say they don’t want to shake hands or shower with someone who’s HIV positive.

But that’s the type of stigma that HIV/AIDS hospital Casey House is trying to tackle with their pop-up restaurant.

For two days — Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 — people who dined at June’s HIV+ Eatery were served food cooked only by those who have the virus (with a little help and training from chef Matt Basile of the Lisa Marie bar in Toronto). The purpose of the restaurant was to show people that HIV is not as easily transmitted as some may think — and especially not through food.

The most important players responsible for bringing the campaign to life are the 14 HIV-positive chefs who will be preparing the dishes. “Everything we did had to take into consideration what they had gone through to get to this point,” says Joseph Bonnici, executive creative director and partner at ad agency Bensimon Byrne that partnered with Casey’s House. “Our HIV-positive chefs, who come from all walks of life, bravely came forward to show they have nothing to be ashamed of, and more importantly, cook a meal for hundreds of people in Toronto who have nothing to fear from them.”

(Photo credit:

The 14 chefs wore aprons with phrases like “Judge the cooking, not the cook” and “Think you can get HIV from food? Bite me.”

“For many people living with HIV, it’s the stigma that hurts the most,” the press release reads. “June’s HIV+ Eatery is an opportunity to fight stigma with every bite. To come together in a show of love, support and acceptance, and to dispel the myths about HIV that condemn so many to suffer in silence.”

For Casey House, which has provided care and support in the community since 1988, “it wasn’t difficult to find 14 people who wanted to be a part of something that would help smash the stigma around the disease,” Bonnici tells People.

While the pop-up restaurant is now closed, supporters and HIV/AIDS activists can still make a donation here to show their support.

(Photo credit:

So now what do you say? Would you sit eat from HIV positive hands? Start the conversation.