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Blood Borne Viruses

Needle & Syringe Programs

Drug Treatments Safer Injecting

 


Safer Injecting.


 

As we know, the best way to avoid contracting a blood borne virus such as Hepatitis C or HIV is not to inject drugs, however... we know that for those of us who do inject drugs there are a few things which we can do to keep us safe.

And that's what this page is all about.

 

For some alternative information, this is a link to AIVL's Veincare Guide.

If you need to access injecting equipmen, this is a link to our Needle & Syringe Program page.

 

Why should you use safer injecting practices for every hit?

Safer injecting practices can prevent the transmission of hepatitis C and other blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B. It can also help prevent dirty hits, bruising, blood poisoning and abscesses.

If you are hep C positive, it is still important to protect yourself, as you can be re-infected with a different strain of hep C or with hep B or HIV.

If you can't get new injecting equipment, you could try using your drugs another way, like snorting, swallowing or shafting. But if you must re-use a needle or syringe, make sure you wash it thoroughly with bleach and cold water.

 

 

Being aware of blood!

Blood borne viruses such as hepatitis C can live outside the body for days (or even weeks). Even microscopic traces of blood, way too small to see, can transmit hepatitis C and this blood can be transferred from one person to another while injecting.

So, being aware of blood means being alert to what is happening throughout the injecting process so that you won't accidentally expose yourself or someone else to any viruses.

If you think that any blood, yours or someone else's, has contaminated any surface or equipment then you should replace any equipment which was sterile (like fits, etc.), re-clean any other things which may have been contaminated, and re-wash your hands before continuing.

 

 

Safer injecting practices.

When you are injecting, it is important to do so safely and carefully. The best way to play it safe is to always use:

a new fit,

new sterile water,

new swabs (at least one for your spoon and one for your injecting site),

a clean torniquet,

a clean filter,

a clean space to work in (or at least on) and

clean hands &

a proper sharps bin.

 

These are the steps you should follow to ensure you are injecting as safely as possible:

 

Preparation.

# Choose a safe place to inject. Somewhere private, clean, well lit and with running water if possible.

# Use soapy water to wipe down the surface where you will be preparing your hit, or at least lay down some clean paper or plastic to work on (you could use the bag your equipment came in).

# Make sure you have everything you need within reach: new sterile fits, new sterile water (water needs to be boiled for at least ten minutes to be sterilised -water from the kettle is not sterile!), new swabs, a clean filter, and a clean torniquet.

# Wash your hands (in warm soapy water if at all possible). Hand washing is very important to remove viruses, bacteria, and general dirt from your injecting equipment.

# If you can't wash your hands, use single swipes with new swabs to clean them. Rubbibg swabs back and forward simply spreads the dirt and bacteria around.

# Choose a safe place to inject. Somewhere private, clean, well lit and with running water if possible.

 

Mixing Up.

# Clean the spoon by wiping it once with a new swab, then let it dry. Then put the drugs in the spoon.

# Use your new sterile fit to draw up some sterile water from a new ampoule or freshly sterilised water(NOTE! Boiling water does not sterilise it unless you keep it on the boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Water from a kettle is more likely to contain bacteria than is tap water).

# Never let used equipment come into contact with a group mix. No matter how well it has been cleaned, used equipment (yours or someone elses) still poses an infection risk. Unless new sterile fits are used to mix and divide up, each person should have all their own equipment and should mix up separately.

# Add the water to the spoon and mix it. You can use the blunt end of your syringe to mix with (but make sure you have swabbed it if it has been touched at all). You may need to heat the mix, but that's up to you. Remember that even lighters and candles can transmit viruses etc. and these, too, need to be washed or swabbed.

# Add the filter to the spoon. The best filters are a little bit of cotton ball or tampon, a (new) piece of rollie or cigarette filter, or a little bit of swab.

# Draw the solution up through the filter to remove impurities. Filters also help stop the needle getting blunted on the bottom of the spoon. If you are injecting pills, use a pill filter if you can get one. If you can't get one, you should filter your mix at least three times.

# Remove any air bubbles by pointing the needle skywards and flicking the side of the syringe. Gently push the plunger in until the air escapes through the eye of the needle.

 

Injecting.

# Wipe the injection site once with a new swab.

# (If needed) Place the tourniquet around your upper arm, or above the injection site. Don't leave it on too long... if you have trouble finding a vein, loosen the tourniquet, have a short rest, and try again.

# Running warm water over the injection site will usually help raise a vein. So will opening and closing your hand in a pumping action.

# Until you have finished injecting, try not to touch anything that hasn't been cleaned .

# Put the needle into your vein at a 45 degree angle, with the hole at the end of the needle facing upwards. Blood will sometimes appear in the barrell of the syringe when the needle is inserted. This indicates that you have 'found' the vein.

# Jack back (pull back the plunger) and blood should appear if the needle is correctly situated in a vein. If you are finding it difficult to find a vein, remove the tourniquet and needle from your arm, apply pressure to the site (using a cotton ball, tissue or toilet paper) to stop any bleeding. Take a few deep breaths, relax and start again. Getting too stressed will not help.

# When you are sure the needle is properly situated in the vein, gently loosen the tourniquet and slowly depress the plunger. If you feel any pain or unusual resistance, jack back a little to see if you are still in the vein. If you have missed, you will need to start again and may need to try a different site.

# When you are done, make sure the tourniquet is fully loosened and remove the needle from your arm. You should keep your arm straight and should apply pressure to the injection site (using a cotton ball, tissue or toilet paper) for a couple of minutes to minimise bruising. Don't use a swab at this point as it will stop the blood clotting and cause more bleeding.

 

 

Cleaning up.

# Rinse your fit with clean, cold water straight after you have your hit. This will remove most of the blood and will help reduce the risks to anyone else if they accidentally sticks themself with the used needle. It also helps remove any traces of the drug which may remain in the syringe ...just in case!

# Dispose of the water you used to rinse your fit immediately so that no-one else can use it and contaminate their equipment with your blood.

# Re-cap your own fit and dispose of it in an approved disposal container or a puncture-proof, child-proof container, then return it to your Needle & Syringe Program. Do not re-cap anyone else's fit!

# After you have finished, wipe down the area you mixed up on (using soapy water if at all possible). If there was any blood visible (even just droplets), the area should be cleaned with household bleach.

# Don't re-use swabs, filters, or open water ampoules: these can all become contaminated once opened.

# When you have cleaned up, wash your hands and arms with soapy water. If this is not possible, you should use single swipes with new swabs instead.

# Store all your equipment in a clean, safe place.