TORONTO — A group of HIV positive chefs will run a first-of-its-kind pop-up restaurant to combat the stigma faced by people living with the illness.
The pop-up is part of a campaign launched by Toronto-based hospital, Casey House, which is Canada's only stand-alone hospital dedicated to caring for those living with HIV-AIDS.
June's HIV+ Eatery, named after Casey House's founder June Callwood, will be open in Toronto Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 and is part of the campaign — called Break Bread Smash Stigma.
A Leger Research Intelligence Group survey, conducted for Casey House, found only half of Canadians would knowingly eat food prepared by someone who is HIV positive.
Casey House CEO Joanne Simons said the pop-restaurant will address the misconception that the illness can be spread through food preparation.
"Talking about food and contraction highlights the massive challenge that our clients experience every day," she said.
"We wanted to open up the public conversation to talk about the stigma associated with it and what has happening to HIV because the diagnosis rates are still extremely high. We want to challenge this notion around blame and shame."
Chef Matt Basile will work with the HIV positive chefs to develop the menu, train them and cook for the patrons.
Casey House announced Wednesday the hospital has recently completed a $38 million redevelopment project which doubles its capacity so it can now care for 650 people through upgraded clinical services and community programs.
Casey House CEO Joanne Simons says the facility, which was founded in 1988, is one of very few places where people living with HIV-AIDS can seek care without judgment.
"Casey House is very proud to be a leader in HIV-AIDS care," she said, "boldly advocating on behalf of our clients to demand the dignity they deserve and challenging stigma."
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne praised the work of Casey House over the past three decades. The facility is a model that should be replicated in other places around the world, she said.
"This new hospital is ready to meet their complex needs with twice the capacity," she said. "More people will be embraced in high quality care and all under one roof."