How Can Injection Drug Users Reduce Their Risk for HIV Infection?

The CDC recommends that people who inject drugs should be regularly counseled to

  • stop using and injecting drugs.
  • enter and complete substance abuse treatment, including relapse prevention.

For injection drug users who cannot or will not stop injecting drugs, the following steps may be taken to reduce personal and public health risks:

  • Never reuse or "share" syringes, water, or drug preparation equipment.
  • Only use syringes obtained from a reliable source (such as pharmacies or needle exchange programs).
  • Use a new, sterile syringe each time to prepare and inject drugs.
  • If possible, use sterile water to prepare drugs; otherwise, use clean water from a reliable source (such as fresh tap water).
  • Use a new or disinfected container ("cooker") and a new filter ("cotton") to prepare drugs.
  • Clean the injection site with a new alcohol swab prior to injection.
  • Safely dispose of syringes after one use.

If new, sterile syringes and other drug preparation and injection equipment are not available, then previously used equipment should be boiled in water or disinfected with bleach before reuse. More information on reducing HIV risks associated with drug infection is contained in the "HIV Prevention Bulletin: Medical Advice For Persons Who Inject Illicit Drugs" (May 9, 1997).

Injection drug users and their sex partners also should take precautions, such as using condoms consistently and correctly, to reduce risks of sexual transmission of HIV. For more information on condoms, see "Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases."

Persons who continue to inject drugs should periodically be tested for HIV. For information on locating an HIV testing site, visit the National HIV Testing Resources Web site.

If you would like more information or have personal concerns, call CDC-INFO 24 Hours/Day at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), 1-888-232-6348 (TTY), in English, en Español.