Harm Reduction for People Living with HIV
Are you a person living with HIV who also uses drugs? If so, you’re in the right place! Here you can find information to help you stay healthy and safe.
Harm reduction is a set of ideas and practices that aim to reduce the potential negative effects of drug use. It’s a non-judgmental approach that accepts that people have always used drugs and they always will. It says that the best way to reduce any risks is to help people use drugs safely.
Having an undetectable viral load lowers the chance of passing HIV when using drugs, but we don’t know by how much. This means it’s always a good idea to use new equipment every time you use drugs and avoid sharing it with others.
Using new equipment for all drug use (i.e. injecting, smoking and snorting) also reduces the risk of getting or passing other infections like hepatitis C, which affects the liver. HIV treatment does not prevent hepatitis C. However, there are now treatments for hepatitis C that can cure the infection almost every time. These treatments are still effective if you use drugs, are living with HIV, or if you have been treated for hepatitis C before.
A major concern when using drugs is overdose. Canada is experiencing an overdose crisis where the illicit drug supply is toxic and unpredictable. This means it is impossible to know what is in your drugs. To stay safe, it is important to never use drugs alone. You can stagger your use with a friend or let someone know when you’re going to use so they can check on you. Make sure you have Naloxone available, which is a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.
For information about harm reduction for people living with HIV, check out:
What Works: What you need to know if you have HIV and inject drugs - This booklet contains easy-to-understand messages about how to take care of your health if you have HIV and inject drugs.
Do you work with people who use drugs? Learn about harm reduction here:
Harm Reduction Fundamentals – This toolkit provides foundational information on harm reduction for service providers working with people who use drugs.
Want to learn more about harm reduction? Visit:
Safer Substance Use - These videos are for people who use drugs and for service providers, to walk through the basic steps for how to inject, smoke and snort drugs as safely as possible.
Mapping the Body: Choosing a vein for safer injection – Information about where is safer, less safe and dangerous to inject drugs on the body.
Responding to an Opioid Overdose/Responding to Stimulant Overuse and Overdose – A guide for identifying and responding to a drug overdose.
Sharp Shooters - The basics of safer injection, the prevention of hepatitis C, HIV and other infections and preventing or responding to an overdose.
Curing hepatitis C: What you need to know if you use drugs – Information for people who use drugs and have been diagnosed with hepatitis C.