In most situations where there is a potential risk from HIV transmission it is completely preventable. In all cases it is at least possible to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
- Intravenous drug use (IV drug user)
- Tattooing and piercing
- Whilst giving or receiving medical treatments including first aid
- Menstruating women (women on their periods)
If the person you are sharing works with is HIV positive then the chance of you contracting HIV from sharing works with them is 90-100%.
The infected blood can stay on the equipment or inside the syringe and will be injected into you when you take your hit. As you do not know if someone else is living with HIV, the only way to be sure is to use your own equipment and never lend your equipment to someone else.
Don’t Inject – Smoke
Whilst injecting drugs does give you a certain kind of high, it is the most dangerous way to do drugs. Smoking drugs is far safer for your body and to prevent HIV transmission. If you want to think about changing your drug use from injecting to smoking, contact your local drug prevention project for information and support.
Go to a needle exchange for sterile needles and syringes.
Depending on where you live in the country there may be a needle exchange program in your area. Needle exchange programmes are set up to allow people who are intravenous drug users (injectors) to hand in their used works (needles and equipment) so they can be disposed of safely and in return they will receive a sterile (unused or clean) set.
Not all needle exchange programs work the same way so contact your local drug project or HSE information centre to find out what is available to you.
How to reduce risk of contracting HIV if you find yourself sharing a needle or works with someone.
Whether you are living with HIV or not; if you ever find yourself in a situation where you cannot avoid sharing drug using equipment with someone then there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of HIV transmission:
- Boiling the equipment will help. Separate the works and place all parts into a pan of boiling water for 15 minutes.
- Flush the needle and the barrel (syringe) with cold water, empty the syringe then flush it again.
- Draw some concentrated bleach from a cup or container up into the needle and the syringe.
- Add some air and shake for 30 seconds, empty the syringe and then do it again.
- Flush it away completely, not back into the bleach container.
- Then repeat the water flush.
- Do this entire process 5 times. Water, Bleach, Water, Bleach and finally Water again.
AT THE VERY LEAST
- Flush the used needle with cold water.
- Put a good squirt of washing up liquid into a cup and add cold water Fill the needle and the syringe with he washing up liquid water and shake for 30 seconds. Do this again.
- Flush with cold water, then flush it again.
- Do this entire process 5 times. Water, Washing up liquid, Water, Washing up liquid and finally Water again.
Take care when choosing where to have your tattoo or piercing.
As the nature of tattooing and piercing is to pierce through the skin, blood can be left on the needles after they have been used. If the customer before you was living with HIV and a new needle, or ink, is not used then you may be at risk from contracting HIV.
Before you are tattooed or pierced take a look around the studio or workplace and ask the artist what they do to guarantee your safety. Find out if they have any training. Make sure they use sterile equipment, gloves and have a general ethos of good hygiene. Needles should be broken off the tattoo gun and placed into a disposal bin (sharps bin) and all inks disposed of at the end of every session with each new customer.
We would recommend the use of universal procedures at all times, but especially in cases where one person is dealing with another persons blood or body fluids.
Get vaccinated before you leave if you are travelling
Getting vaccinated before you leave can prevent some of the illness you may be at risk from in other countries. The less likely you are to be ill or injured then the more likely it is you will avoid any contact with HIV at all.
Carry your own needles if you are travelling
If you are travelling to remote areas or to third world countries like the African or Asian Continents then make sure you carry a sterile pack of needles with you. You can get these from your pharmacist before you travel. This means if you have to have injections you are more likely to be able to ensure your needle was not used on someone else before you.
Make sure you have medical insurance if you are travelling abroad
When we travel we are risking injury or illness in another country. Whilst most countries have strict practices around administering medication through injection, and blood from transfusions is screened for viruses like HIV, some do not.
It is important to know where you are going and to research the medical facilities in those countries. If you have medical insurance you are more likely to be treated by a hospital or doctor who has the facilities to ensure your safety whilst also treating your injury or illness.
Take care when choosing where you receive your medical treatment
All medical practitioners, including doctors, nurses, dentist, acupuncturists or other complementary therapists should be fully qualified to practice.
All needles, equipment, covers and gloves should be disposed of directly after use in the correct kinds of containers for incineration.
If your practitioner is not qualified or is behaving in a way that you find concerning you may choose to leave and find another practitioner. You may also consider reporting them to the HSE.
Use universal procedures when giving medical treatments, including first aid to someone
Try not to administer first aid unless you are qualified to do so. Sometimes this is not possible so, in all cases use universal procedures.
Sometimes, even though we use universal procedures we find that we might have an accidental needle stick injury or are exposed to someone’s blood in another way. In cases such as this it may be possible to use PEP to reduce the risk of developing HIV. Time is of the essence in such situations as PEP can only be administered effectively within 72 hours so contact your doctor or the emergency hospital services in your area.
You can read more about PEP on our PEP page.
Sharing sexual activity with women, who are living with HIV and on their periods (menstruating), carries a higher risk of HIV transmission than sexual activity at other times of the month. This is because the HIV is present in her vaginal fluid and the blood from her womb.
If you are concerned you may have been at risk from blood to blood transmission there may be some things you can do to reduce your chances of developing HIV. Please check out our PEP page or call our confidential helpline on 061 316661.