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Safer Injection Guidelines That Can Reduce Health Risks Including Getting Infected With HIV or Hep

September 11, 2008

  • It is safest to use a new, sterile syringe and equipment (including cotton, filters, caps, spoons, cookers and alcohol swabs) every time you inject. You can get new syringes in exchange for used ones at needle exchange programs or you can purchase them without a prescription in some pharmacies in some states such as California. Needle exchanges and other harm reduction programs can sometimes also provide you with cotton, alcohol swabs, sterile water, and other supplies.
  • If you can't get a new syringe, using bleach to clean your works and equipment (including caps and cookers) is effective against killing the Hepatitis B virus, but only if the bleach is in contact with what's being cleaned for at least 2 minutes. This is different from the usual guidelines for killing HIV. The Hepatitis viruses are hardier than HIV, and therefore more difficult to destroy. It has not been proven that using bleach for 2 minutes also kills the Hepatitis C virus.
  • It's possible that blood containing Hepatitis C can remain infectious outside of your body for up to 14 days and possibly more. Do not put your syringe, plunger, or needle down on a dirty surface -- such as a tabletop that has (or may have had) blood on it -- as you could contaminate your syringe. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before using your fingers to find a vein, or even to pick up a piece of cotton. You should also clean the injection spot (before not after) and even wash your fingers with an alcohol swab if possible.
  • Use sterile water if possible. Otherwise use the cleanest water you can find for mixing and injecting drugs and rinsing injection equipment.
  • Shoot your own drugs, if at all possible. If you can't inject yourself, make sure that the person who's injecting you does not get his or her blood, or anyone else's on or around your injection site. Make sure that he or she uses a new or at least properly cleaned syringe.

  
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This article was provided by San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Visit San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More on Harm Reduction With Intravenous Drugs

 

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