Injection drug users are also at a high risk for contracting hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV), both of which are diseases spread through blood that damage the liver. HCV infection is common in injection drug users -- studies show that 60 to 80 percent of injection drugs users in 25 countries are infected with HCV. HBV infection is less common, with five to ten percent of injection drug users in 21 countries, and as many as 20 percent in Vietnam, infected with HBV.
Hepatitis is easily spread through sharing needles and other injection supplies, such as cookers, cotton, and ties. Cleaning your skin prior to injecting is important. Also make sure you throw away alcohol pads and cotton wipes so that no one else touches them. Wipe down surfaces when possible before injecting. Cleaning your injection drug equipment with bleach according to the directions listed above can kill HBV; it is unclear if it can kill HCV.
The best way to prevent hepatitis is to use a new needle and syringe each time, and never share any part of your works. Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B to prevent infection with these two types of the virus; there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.
Sharing a needle, syringe, or any related equipment for any use, including
skin popping, injecting steroids, tattooing, and body piercing, can put you at
risk for HIV and other blood-borne infections. If you plan to have body
piercing or get a tattoo, make sure you go to a qualified technician who uses
The safest thing to do is to stop injecting drugs altogether. If this is not possible right now, get new, sterile needles each time you shoot up or find a needle exchange program. If you have to share, thoroughly clean your needles and works with bleach and water after each use and before reusing.
If you are at risk through injecting drugs either now or in the past, get an HIV and hepatitis test. You can also put your sex partners at risk if you have unsafe sex, so remember to use condoms and practice safer sex.
The original version of this info sheet (2006) was adapted from materials from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the University of Albany.
Illustrations from Heart of Richmond AIDS Society www.heartofrichmond.com/PDF/needles.pdf.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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