A project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the Internet at http://www.aidsinfonet.org
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Fact Sheet Number 154
DRUG USE AND HIV
HOW DOES DRUG USE RELATE
Drug use is a major factor in the spread of
HIV infection. Shared equipment for using
drugs can carry HIV and hepatitis, and drug
use is linked with unsafe sexual activity.
Drug and alcohol use can also be
dangerous for people who are taking
antiretroviral medications (ARVs). Drug
users are less likely to take all of their
medications, and street drugs may have
dangerous interactions with ARVs. Fact
sheet 494 has more
individual drugs and HIV.
INJECTION AND INFECTION
HIV infection spreads easily when people
share equipment to use drugs. Sharing
equipment also spreads hepatitis B,
hepatitis C, and other serious diseases.
Infected blood can be drawn up into a
syringe and then get injected along with the
drug by the next user of the syringe. This is
the easiest way to transmit HIV during drug
use because infected blood goes directly
into someone’s bloodstream.
Even small amounts of blood on your
hands, cookers, filters, tourniquets, or in
rinse water can be enough to infect another
To reduce the risk of HIV and hepatitis
infection, never share any equipment used
with drugs, and keep washing your hands.
Carefully clean your cookers and the site
you will use for injection. See fact sheet 155
for more information on ways to reduce the
harm of drug use.
A recent study showed that HIV can
survive in a used syringe for at least 4
weeks. If you have to re-use equipment,
you can reduce the risk of infection by
cleaning it between users. If possible, re-use
your own syringe. It still should be cleaned
because bacteria can grow in it.
The most effective way to clean a syringe is
to use water first, then bleach and a final