If you are unable to obtain a sterile syringe, careful cleaning may reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases. Rinse the syringe and needle with clean water to remove all the blood. Fill with full strength bleach and shake; after 30 seconds, squirt it out through the needle. Rinse with clean water to remove the bleach.
Under a new law in New York State, persons age 18 years and older can legally possess hypodermic needles and syringes obtained through ESAP. These syringes and needles may be purchased or obtained without prescription from participating licensed pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, community health centers, doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants ( Public Health Law Section: 3381, Chapter 56, Laws of 2000).
Hospitals and nursing homes are required to accept household sharps (used syringes and needles). The use syringes and needles then become regulated medical waste and the hospitals must handle them in accordance with Environmental Conservation Law. This helps to protect the environment.
Persons who inject drugs can substantially reduce their risk of getting and transmitting HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood borne infections by using a sterile (new) needle and syringe for every injection. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health supports programs where persons who inject drugs can access sterile needles and syringes through syringe services programs (SSPs). Through these programs you can get sterile needles and syringes free of cost, dispose of used needles and syringes, and get connected to other services such as testing for hepatitis C, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, overdose education, and Narcan (naloxone).
This law, passed by the Minnesota State Legislature, began July 1, 1998. Since then, persons are able to purchase up to 10 new syringes/needles without a prescription at pharmacies that voluntarily participate with this initiative in Minnesota.
In Philadelphia, some drug users are selling clean needles from needle exchange programs on the street. Researchers say the black market isn't necessarily a bad thing. ImageZoo/Corbis hide caption
Most people are coming in with just a few needles, and get a small bag of several new needles and supplies in return. But participants can take as many new syringes as they want, as long as they turn in a dirty needle in for every new one they receive.
People who inject drugs risk contracting a number of different illnesses, including HIV and Hepatitis C, if they share used needles. As a prevention strategy, many cities have organizations like Prevention Point that give out clean syringes.
One Prevention Point client who exchanges dirty needles in bulk does business on a corner about half a mile away, a block from where users can buy drugs and near some wooded train tracks where many people go to inject.
\"You can exchange pretty much one old needle off the ground for a new set right there. Some people come in with 300, 400 works at a time,\" he says. NPR is not using his name because he's admitting to illegal activities, including selling needles.
This man gets $1 apiece for the clean syringes he receives from the exchange. Though banned under Pennsylvania law, the practice of needle resale is tolerated by the city, and he says he's the not the only one who does it.
Yabor, who was diagnosed with AIDS and Hepatitis C years ago, says some people don't feel comfortable picking up needles from the exchange. Others are looking to drop into the neighborhood, inject and get out fast.
Roland Lamb, who directs Philadelphia's Office of Addiction Services, says there are people who manage shooting galleries in the neighborhood. They act as a dealer or bouncer, and will exchange needles in bulk so they can sell or even give clean needles to their clients.
Lamb thinks the impact on health is significant. Without a dedicated study, it's hard for researchers to measure the effects of black-market needles, but exchanges themselves do reduce the spread of HIV. They get part of the credit in Philadelphia for a dramatic drop in new diagnoses.
University of Pennsylvania researcher Philippe Bourgois studies how slight variations in drug use affect infection rates. He says Philadelphia's strong network of people spreading needles from the exchange plays a big role.
\"You get this extraordinarily efficient distribution of needles, exactly where they need to be at the right time,\" he says. \"And so that's what basically, I think, prevents a much worse spread of HIV.\"
Preventing the transmission of HIV by giving clean needles to drug addicts -- one of the highest risk groups for infection -- has been a controversial issue for more than two decades in the United States. Does needle exchange bring down HIV infection rates What does the scientific evidence show Here is an overview.
Needle-exchange programs, or NEPs, are community-based initiatives that allow intravenous (IV) drug users to exchange used syringes for clean, sterile ones in an effort to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and other blood-borne pathogens. In addition to providing clean needles, NEPs generally provide HIV/AIDS education, testing and condoms, as well as abuse treatment referrals.
Soon after NEPs appeared in Europe in the early 1980s to stem the transmission of hepatitis B and AIDS, the first illegal NEPs began to crop up in the northeastern United States. Jon Parker, a former IV drug user himself, was one of the first needle-exchange activists in the U.S. Parker explained to FRONTLINE that his impetus came from an addict who spontaneously decided to bring clean needles to an HIV/AIDS prevention meeting Parker was holding for IV drug users in New Haven, Conn. After this meeting, and having heard of the successes in Europe, Parker started the first U.S. NEP in New Haven in 1986. Although Connecticut law classified syringes as drug paraphernalia, Parker decided that actually distributing clean needles, rather than just recommending their use, would be far more effective.
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, legal and illegal NEPs were started in major urban areas, primarily on the West Coast and in New York City. Today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are nearly 200 NEPs in more than 36 states. Most are still concentrated in urban centers, where IV drug use tends to be highest and where politicians and communities are more willing to use them as a preventative tool.
The scientific evidence indicates yes. Seven federally funded studies during the 1990s, conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the CDC and the National Academy of Sciences among others, all reached similar conclusions that NEPs work in reducing HIV's spread among IV drug users, their partners and children, and that they do not encourage increased drug use. Furthermore, a more recent study by the World Health Organization compiled the results of over 200 such reports from around the world and came to the same conclusions. However, while most studies agree on the effectiveness of NEPs, some experts argue that it's difficult to isolate the preventative effect of providing clean needles from that of all the other services offered at most NEPs.
Even those who agree with the scientific evidence hesitate to take a stand because the issue is too controversial. \"A lot of people wanted needle exchange because of the role of dirty needles in [infecting] drug users, but the opposition to it was simply overwhelming,\" explained former President Bill Clinton, who declined to lift the ban on federal funding. \"Politically the country wasn't ready for it.\"
And on the international level, Congress and the Bush administration have extended the federal funding ban to any projects receiving funds from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Critics argue that this stance is especially dangerous in countries such as Vietnam, where the spread of HIV/AIDS is primarily driven by IV drug use.
Injection drug use (IDU) accounts for a large number of HIV cases worldwide. Sharing needles, syringes, and drug injection equipment or \"works\" (including cookers and cotton) allows HIV to be spread from one person to another. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 11 million people inject drugs worldwide, and that 1.4 million of them are living with HIV. Globally, one out of every ten new HIV transmissions is through injection drug use. However, that average is much higher in some areas.
Hepatitis is easily spread through sharing needles and other injection supplies, such as cookers, cotton, and ties. Cleaning your skin before you inject is important. Also make sure to throw away alcohol pads and cotton wipes so that no one else touches them. If possible, wipe down surfaces before injecting. If new needles and injection equipment are not available, cleaning your injection drug equipment with bleach according to the directions below can kill HBV; it is unclear whether it can kill HCV.
Stopping injection drug use altogether is probably the best thing you can do for your health. This may be an incredibly hard thing to do, and it may not work for everyone. However, it will remove all risk of getting HIV and hepatitis from sharing needles, syringes, cookers, and cottons.
If you do inject drugs, it is best to use a new, sterile needle and syringe every time you inject and not share needles and syringes with others. You might not think of yourself as having \"shared\" a needle and syringe if both you and a close friend or acquaintance used them. But sharing needles and syringes with friends can be as dangerous as sharing with strangers.
\"Street sellers\" of needles and syringes may repackage used needles and syringes and sell them as sterile when they are not. Do not assume a needle and syringe are new, even if they seem to be packaged as new.
If you cannot buy new needles and syringes from a pharmacy, look for a needl