Did you know? HIV is not just spread through unprotected sex – if you inject drugs, you can also get it by sharing needles with other people. Sharing injection equipment also puts you at risk for other infections like hepatitis C.

There are several ways that you can reduce your risk of HIV and other infections if you inject drugs:

Don’t share needles or injection equipment with others.  If you are having trouble finding clean needles, there may be a syringe service program (SSP) nearby that distributes safer injection supplies for free.  On this page you’ll find a map created by Harm Reduction Ohio that shows every program available in the state. If you live outside of Ohio, you can search for a program in your area at NASEN.org or reach out to your local health department.

Note: Find full contact information for each of these programs here.

Practice safer injection techniques.

  • Do not reuse syringes. If you must use the same syringe more than once, clean it with a mixture of bleach and sterile water. This will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of infection. For instructions, you can read the CDC’s guide on how to clean syringes.
  • Use in a clean environment and practice good hygiene. Remember to wash your hands and clean each injection site with an alcohol swab.
  • Dispose of materials safely to prevent accidental needle sticks – handle materials carefully. If you do not have access to a syringe exchange to dispose of your materials right away, you can use a puncture resistant container with a lid, like a coffee can, laundry detergent container, or tomato sauce jar.

  • Talk to your doctor about starting on PrEP, a once-daily pill that reduces your risk of getting HIV.
  • For further resources, check out the Harm Reduction Coalition’s safer injection materials.

Get tested.  If you or any of your sexual partners inject drugs, it is recommended that you get tested regularly for blood-borne infections like HIV and hepatitis C.  Find a local testing site on our Know Your Status page.

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can also visit an emergency department within 72 hours to get PEP and reduce your risk of infection.