You can become infected with HIV if you do the following (with someone who is HIV positive of whose HIV status you do not know):

  • have vaginal or anal intercourse without a latex or polyurethane condom (very high risk)
  • have oral sex without protection during which semen, vaginal fluid or menstrual blood enters open cuts or sores (which can be unnoticable) in your mouth (lower risk)
  • share needles or any equipment for injecting drugs such as cocaine, heroin or steroids (invisible amounts of blood are transmitted through sharing needles, syringes, water for diluting, cotton filters, and straws or pipes) (very high risk)
  • share sex toys, razors or toothbrushes (lower risk)

What are other ways I can get infected?

  • an HIV positive woman can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, at birth or through breast feeding
  • receiving a blood transfusion or blood product in Canada before 1986 (since then, blood screening has made the risk of infection very low)


How can I protect myself if I choose to drink or inject drugs?

Alcohol or drugs won’t infect you with HIV, but taking risks while you’re drunk or high might

Reduce your risk of HIV infection:

  • limit drinking or drug taking before sex – this way, you are more likely to take precautions
  • if you are going to be drinking or injecting drugs, bring latex or polyurethane condoms (or other protective barriers) and/or clean needles with you (condoms and needles can be obtained for free from AIDS Moncton)
  • practice safer sex
  • practice safer needle use – use a new needle and new supplies each time you inject drugs. Don’t share your rigs!

If I MUST re-use drug injecting equipment, how do I reduce the risk?

You can reduce the risk of infection by cleaning your needle and syringe

  • Fill syringe with clean water, shake for 30 seconds and empty it. Throw away the water
  • Fill syringe with bleach, shake it for 30 seconds and empty it. Repeat with more bleach
  • Fill syringe with water again, shake it for 30 seconds and empty it. Throw away the water

Remember, needle cleaning with bleach may reduce your risk for HIV infection, but other viruses like hepatitis may not be killed by bleach. Do not re-use needles unless you have no other options. You can get clean rigs from AIDS Moncton’s Needle Distribution.

How do I know if tattooing or piercing will be safe?

The safest way to get a tattoo or piercing is to go to a professional. In tattooing or piercing, HIV can be transmitted by tiny, invisible particles of blood on equipment that has not been sterilized correctly. These particles can also be in tattoo ink

Professional piercers:

  • use jewlery made of surgical steel or niobium
  • don’t use stud guns (when in doubt ASK what they use)

Professional tattooists:

  • pour ink into new, disposable containers
  • use these containers only for your tattoo

Professional tattooists and piercers:

  • use sterile needles every time
  • wear latex gloves
  • have information about safety posted in the waiting area
  • give instructions on how to prevent infection (after-care)
  • are experienced and knowledgeable
  • sterilize reusable equipment in an autoclave (a machine that uses very hot water to sterilize equipment – equipment should be sterilized at 121 degrees celcius for 30 minutes)

*This content was originally published by CATIE, Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information.