Blood-borne Infection Information for People Who Use Drugs

Infection Information

If you use, protect yourself and others from viral hepatitis, HIV, and other infections.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. It is spread when people come in contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breastmilk of someone who has HIV.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks and damages the liver. It is spread by blood-to-blood contact with someone who has the hepatitis C virus. The virus can live in dried blood on surfaces and equipment (such as drug use and tattoo equipment) for up to 6 weeks. For more information, check out the hepatitis C webpage.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks and damages the liver. It is spread when people come in contact with the blood, open sores, or body fluids of someone who has the hepatitis B virus. The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days and it is up to 100 times more infectious than HIV. For more information, check out the hepatitis B webpage.

Without medical treatment these viruses can cause serious illness and death. You can feel fine and still have the viruses.

Other Infections

In addition to being at risk for HIV and viral hepatitis, people who share needles or works (like spoons, cookers, cottons, or water) can get other serious health problems, like skin infections or abscesses.

Risk Reduction Strategies

To reduce your risk, be careful not to come in contact with another person’s blood.

  • The best way to reduce your risk is to stop injecting.
  • Wash hands before and after injecting to remove any blood or germs.
  • Don’t share or reuse needles or any other items, including: cotton, cookers, ties, water or items used to snort drugs. All equipment used to prepare and inject drugs can spread infections when shared.
  • If you have ever injected drugs you should get tested for HIV and hepatitis C. If you continue to use, get tested every six months. Knowing about your infection sooner and getting the care you need keeps you healthier and reduces your risk of passing any viruses on to others. Find a testing site near you at gettested.cdc.gov.
  • Use condoms, the right way, every time you have anal or vaginal sex to reduce your risk of getting an infection.

Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine currently available for HIV or hepatitis C.

Other Risk Reduction Resources

Safer Drug Use Strategies

Clean your injection site.

Clean your skin with an alcohol swab or clean soapy water before using to reduce infections of the skin and blood.

Dispose of used equipment safely.

You can protect others by putting used items in a strong container with a secure top (like a laundry detergent bottle). Tape it closed and label it: “Sharps, Do Not Recycle”.

Clean needles.

It’s best not to reuse needles. If you must reuse, clean your syringe with sterile water and bleach.

NEED NALOXONE (NARCAN®)?

MoNetwork (free): 844-732-3587

You can buy naloxone (Narcan®) with or without
a prescription at most pharmacies.

Don’t use alone.

Try to never be alone when using and take turns so someone is alert enough to give naloxone and call 911. With any drug use there is a chance of overdose.

Keep naloxone (Narcan®) with you.

It reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids, especially during an overdose.

Call 911 if someone is overdosing.

Missouri’s 911 Good Samaritan law protects you and the person overdosing from arrest for possession of drugs and paraphernalia.

WANT HELP?

Call (800) 662-HELP (4357) for information on where to get help, or go to samhsa.gov.

IN A CRISIS? Call (800) 273-TALK (8255) or you can text HOME to 741741.