SUPPORT & EDUCATION FOR HIV, HEPATITIS & STIs

inforesourcesInformation & Resources

Safer Drug Use

We realize that abstinence (quitting using substance altogether) isn’t realistic, possible or desirable for everyone. We seek to meet people where they are at and to offer the information and resources needed to minimize the potential harms associated with using substances.

We believe that people who use substances should have access to information to make informed decisions about their health and deserve the same respect and treatment as non-substance users.

Some activities associated with drug use can put us at an increased risk for getting HIV and Hepatitis C. While using substances, we could be providing an easy route for HIV and/or Hepatitis C to get directly into our blood stream through our veins (by injecting), or through sores or tears in the soft linings of our mouth and nose (smoking and snorting). Using substances can also lower our capacity to make decisions, and with lowered inhibitions we may take more or increased risks than we would otherwise not. We might not practice safer sex when using,or we might not be able to correctly use a condom. This can put us at risk for HIV and/or Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections.

Depending on the substance and method of use, there are different ways of reducing your risk of HIV and/or Hepatitis C.

Safer snorting

Make sure to take good care of your nose when you’re snorting. Snorting can irritate the soft tissues inside your nose, and cause sores and tears. Rinsing your nose before and after snorting with a bit of water or saline can help keep your nasal passages moist, and move the substance through your nose.

Sharing straws or bills for snorting can put you at risk for HIV and Hepatitis C. To make snorting safer, use your own straws or bills and mark them so you know which ones belong to you. Some people like to mark their equipment with a string, an elastic band, lipstick or markers.

It’s important to know that these practices can help reduce your risk of HIV and/or Hepatitis C, but they will not eliminate the risk entirely.

symbol downloadable

http://librarypdf.catie.ca/PDF/ATI-30000s/30059.pdf
The Hep C Handbook: The goods on Hep C, safer drug use, tattooing and piercing

http://librarypdf.catie.ca/pdf/ATI-70000s/70101.pdf
Safer Snorting

Safer smoking

Take good care of your lips when smoking with a pipe. Smoking drugs can dry out your lips and cause them to crack or burn, which can provide an easy entry for someone else’s blood to get into your body, putting you at risk for HIV and Hepatitis C. To be safer while smoking, have your own pipe and don’t share with others. Some people like to mark their equipment with a string, an elastic band, lipstick or markers so they know what one is theirs.

 If you have to share, try to get your own mouthpiece. Use lip balm or Vaseline on your lips before and while smoking to keep them from cracking and burning. Make sure to let the pipe to cool before using it again to avoid burning yourself.

Talk to your local needle exchange or AIDS Service Organization about a safer smoking or crack kit. They may be able to help you with some new pipes, screens or mouthpieces.

 It’s important to know that these practices can help reduce your risk of HIV and/or Hepatitis C, but they will not eliminate the risk entirely.

symbol downloadable

http://librarypdf.catie.ca/PDF/ATI-30000s/30059.pdf
The Hep C handbook

Safer injecting

Use a new needle for every injection. You can get new ones at your local needle exchange program and even drop off your used ones. Needle exchanges will also set you up with everything you need—cookers, tourniquets, sterile water, swabs and filters. Many people don’t realize that sharing your equipment (cookers, filters, etc.) can also pass HIV or Hepatitis C.

It’s best to use your own equipment and needles every time, but we realize this isn’t always possible. If you need to reuse or share your equipment/needles, here are some tips to help reduce your chances of getting HIV and/or Hepatitis C.

To clean your needles

  • Step 1: Draw cool, clean water up into the syringe and shake for 30 seconds. Squirt the water out. Repeat, using new water.
  • Step 2: Repeat Step 1, but this time use fresh household bleach instead of water. Don’t forget to shake both times for 30 seconds (it takes at least this long for bleach to attack HIV).
  • Step 3: Repeat Step 1 again, using new clean water from a different container or from the tap.

To clean your cookers
Clean your spoon/cooker with bleach by rinsing it with water and letting it soak for 30 seconds in straight bleach, then rinse and repeat the process. Rinse it with water once more before using it.

To clean your filters
In the absence of dental filters, pinch some cotton from a Q-Tip and throw it in your cooker or spoon. Use brand-name material, as the cheaper stuff is quite loose and can easily get stuck to the end of your needle and cause cotton fever. Do not use cigarette filters, as they may have fibreglass that gets attached to the end of your needle, causing all kinds of health problems. If you have nothing, add as much sterilized water as you can in your cooker, lift it to one side, and try to suck the upper layer of the solution into your syringe, leaving the visible particles in the bottom of your solution.

Water
If you don’t have sterilized water, boil tap water for 8-12 minutes before you use it. Boiling the water in your cooker for a few seconds does not do the job. Water needs to boil for at least 8 minutes to kill all microorganisms. Unfortunately, you can’t boil water in a cooker for more than a few seconds before it evaporates.

Ties
You can be quite creative to find a replacement for a tourniquet. You can use a belt, hang your backpack from your arm, use the straps of your handbag, or even place your arm between your crossed legs to apply pressure to the relevant vein. Whatever you use, if you can’t release the pressure within a fraction of a second, you should look for another option.

For local resources about safer injecting you can call:
Mainline Needle Exchange in Halifax (902) 423-9991
Northern AIDS Connection Society in Truro (902) 895-0931
Sharp Advice Needle Exchange in Cape Breton (902) 539-5556.

If you live in the HRM you can also reach out to Mobile Outreach Street Health http://moshhalifax.ca/.

symbol downloadable

For more information on safer injecting and taking care of your veins:

http://librarypdf.catie.ca/pdf/ATI-70000s/70095.pdf
Sharp Shooters: Harm Reduction Info for Safer Injection Drug Use

http://librarypdf.catie.ca/PDF/ATI-30000s/30059.pdf
The Hep C Handbook 

http://librarypdf.catie.ca/pdf/ATI-70000s/70162.pdf
Choosing a safer injection site

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