A charity is hoping to break stereotypes about HIV through a new restaurant where all the staff are HIV-positive.
June’s on Tuesday is a pop-up eatery in Toronto starting a new campaign with the tagline “Break Bread, Smash Stigma”.
Casey House, a charity that provides health services for people with HIV/AIDS, recently ran a survey in Canada. It indicated only half of people would eat food prepared by a cook with HIV.
“The numbers are kind of staggering, but it wasn’t overly surprising,” Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House said.
“For the clients that Casey House serves, that stigma is very real on a very daily basis,” she said.
Casey House sold pre-paid seats to the eatery which featured staff wearing aprons featuring sayings like “I got HIV from pasta. Said no one ever.”
HIV is only spread when infected fluid comes in contact with a non-infected person’s bloodstream. It is not contracted through sharing food, cutlery, or through skin-to-skin contact.
Around 200 customers were served items like Thai potato leek soup and gingerbread tiramasu, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The charity worked with celebrity chef Matt Basile of Toronto’s Fidel Gastro restaurant. Basile helped “14 HIV positive individuals-turned-cooks to develop the menu, train, and cook for patrons,” Casey House said.
Kenneth Poon, a Casey House client, said in a statement that he was “proud” to be part of the cooks at June’s. He said the charity worked to “boldly break barriers and end the isolation I have felt and others continue to feel”.
June’s sold out its first run – to the tune of $98 (£58) per person and there has been so much interest. More pop-ups are being considered in New York, San Francisco and London.