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Zoonoses and AIDS

In order to deal correctly with opportunistic infectious disease that can easily occur in HIV or AIDS patients, it is extremely important to differentiate between developing and developed countries. This is because they represent a completely different setting for different scenarios in relation to human habits, epidemiological patterns and interplay between human beings and animals.

In developed countries, the most frequent patterns through which HIV or AIDS patients contract a zoonosis is by means of direct contact with pets or consumption of contaminated food of animal origin. In developing countries, the most frequent patterns are characterized by direct contact with farm or wild animals and their products. It means that different risks and mechanisms of spreading of zoonotic agents exist according to the considered geographical areas. Those differences have to be taken into account when organizing an effective control strategy.

It is very evident that interactions between animals and humans are truly complex and health care providers should be aware of the potential role of animals in transmitting infectious diseases to HIV or AIDS infected patients. HIV or AIDS patients are not obliged to get rid of their pets, or to avoid any contact with animals or eliminate the consumption of food of animal origin, but they should be informed about the risks connected with their actions and if there is a way to reduce the potential hazard connected with animals.

Overall, we can define two different critical points that have to be considered in reducing the risk of infection due to opportunistic pathogens for HIV or AIDS patients: food of animal origin and direct contact with animals, either pets or farm animals.

Food safety is a complicated issue that involves many professionals, but the basic rules for minimizing the risk of consuming infected food, are based on the concept that most zoonotic food-borne opportunistic pathogens are temperature-sensitive and are contaminating, not infecting agents. This implies that foodstuffs are contaminated along the production chain between slaughter and the consumer’s table. We will focus on particular aspects that have to be followed by immunocompromised consumers. The general rules listed below are not related to single pathogens. Most are applicable either in developed or developing countries. A more detailed description for every pathogen is reported separately.

Direct contact with pets or farm animals is a frequent source of infection for immunocompromised humans. To minimize the risks from these sources such people are strongly advised to:

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