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Staying Safer-Tools of the trade

Always use new injection equipment. Sharing any injection equipment, especially needles, is one of the most efficient ways HIV can be transmitted from one person to another. If you do not get a brand-new, sealed set from a needle exchange or pharmacy, clean it before you use it. Clean all injection equipment with bleach (see steps below under FAQ). This process is less effective, but will help to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV. Sterilize needles, cookers, and other injection equipment between EACH use. Boiling for 20 minutes will sterilize equipment and kill HIV and other disease-producing pathogens.

Latex condoms (“rubbers”) prevent HIV infection. Using a condom may not always be easy, but it can save your life or someone else’s. When used right, condoms seldom break, tear, or slip. You can also use a dry condom, or a flavored one, for oral sex, or cut a condom to the center and open it up to use for oral-anal or oral-vaginal sex. Never re-use a condom.

Plastic wrap and dental dams stop HIV when used for oral sex on a woman or for oral-anal sex. Dental dams are latex squares available in medical supply stores and from some adult shops. Some people find it easier to use a large sheet of plastic wrap. Be sure the dam or plastic wrap covers the entire vulva (clitoris and vaginal opening) and that you hold it at both edges. Be careful not to turn the dam or plastic wrap inside-out while you use it.

The “female condom” is a plastic sheath that women can insert in their vaginas and use for protection against HIV. The female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex, has rings at both ends to hold it in place, and can be lubricated with oil-based lubricants that stay wet longer. This kind of condom takes practice to use, and is more expensive than a latex condom. Some men have also used the female condom for anal sex, though it has not been tested or approved for this use.