Until recently, few of the chefs had ever stepped foot in a restaurant kitchen. Now they were slicing up hunks of skirt steak and gently coaxing pomegranate seeds out of their peels as they readied an elaborate four-course dinner for more than 100 patrons.
The 14-person team was working to open a unique pop-up restaurant in Toronto: the world’s first eatery where all of the kitchen staff are HIV positive.
“We really wanted to be able to challenge the stigma that still exists around HIV,” said Joanne Simons of Casey House, Canada’s first and only standalone hospital for people living with HIV/Aids. The idea of a restaurant was born out of a recent poll that suggested only half of Canadians would knowingly share or eat food prepared by someone who is HIV positive.
The event comes as, on average, seven Canadians a day are diagnosed with HIV, a rate that has decreased only slightly since the 1980s.
When Casey House opened in 1988, its first client was brought to the facility flanked by paramedics in hazmat suits. Despite huge advances in treating the disease and better understanding of how it is contracted, much of the stigma of that era endures today, said Simons. “I think that there’s still this lingering notion that if I have regular human contact with somebody with HIV, I may contract it – and it is still a death sentence.” Read more