Your concern is an important one and we are happy to answer it. Sharing needles raises the risk of transmission of blood borne pathogens, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). The most certain way of avoiding contamination is by using a new, sterile needle every time. Check out www.streetconnections.ca to find out where you can get new needles and other harm reduction supplies in Manitoba.
Studies indicate that needle cleaning practices by people who inject drugs may reduce the number of pathogens (microorganisms, viruses or bacteria) found in/on used needles, but majority of these practices cannot effectively remove all pathogens. Only a process of sterilization will effectively kill all microorganisms and result in a sterile needle.
Cleaning needles by rinsing with bleach is not 100 percent safe at reducing the risk of transmission. Several studies in real life situations have indicated that using bleach to rinse needles has little or no protective effect against HIV or HCV transmission. The Public Health Agency of Canada, the Best Practice Recommendations for Canadian Harm Reduction Programs and the World Health Organization, do not recommend the use of bleach as an HIV or hepatitis C prevention strategy.
- If one believes that he/she has shared needles with someone who has HIV or HCV (or another blood-borne virus) its important to consider getting tested.
- If they are sexually active its recommended to practice safer sex, by wearing a condom (internal / external) until the results are out. This is to ensure that they do not pass on the virus to their partner(s) if infected.
- One may also want to consider accessing post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a way to help prevent the transmission of HIV in an HIV-negative person who may have been recently exposed to HIV. It should be started within 72 hours after a potential exposure to HIV. Contacting your doctor, a hospital emergency or sexual health clinic for access to PEP is important.
Hope this is helpful in alleviating your concern.