Avoiding Hepatitis C / HIV – Tips from your peers

An article based on a research paper

by Sam Friedman et al.

Looking at How Some IV Users Manage to

Become ‘Double Negatives’.

In some climates where disturbingly high rates of infection exist, what key things are people doing in their daily using lives that conspire to keep them free from infection when so many of our  peers become positive. Sam Friedman et al looked into this subject and found some consistent factors

A brief BP comment before we introduce Sams article; We are always focusing on just HOW we end up getting blood borne viruses, and many of us have ended up getting, if not HIV then much more commonly, Hepatitis C (or B) -in some countries or prisons Hep C rates can be as high as 70-90% of all injectors. Yet we all know people who have managed to inject drugs for decades yet have avoided becoming infected with anything. Sam Friedman et al has turned the usual research approach  on its head here and put our own drug using culture under the microscope – searching for the little gems -those habits or behaviours that WE have utilised to keep us safe from such  infections, regardless of how long one has been injecting.

This is not about focusing on what ‘they did right and you did wrong’. No, this is about pulling

Negative (Negative album)

Sam Friedman’s research into the ‘Double Negatives’

together the cultural threads and day to day choices one can make that helps to create the environment you need to protect your health. It is interesting to see how adopting a few strategies around your using lifestyle, can work to protect you from what can be extremely common infections. Of course in a world of prohibition, opportunities to choose a safer path can change dramatically overnight, such as a stay in prison. Sometimes, with all the knowledge and support in the world, you can just be damn unlucky, or have no control over transmission events.

However, it is worth looking at Friedmans research to see, against just such a prohibitionist backdrop,  with perils around almost every corner, how our negative peers manage to stay negative -leaving us with the thought; “Can I incorporate some of these tactics/strategies/principles/street codes into my using life? Well yes you can -and all of these ‘tips’ are just as relevant for a positive person as well – after all, who wants to get re-infected? So, enough of the prologue, take it away Sam! PS -BP has added the odd hopefully useful comment in italics.

Staying Safe: How you and others might

avoid becoming infected with hepatitis C or


Most people who inject drugs get infected with hepatitis C within a few years (often their first few years of IV using). Some also get infected with HIV. This happens in spite of all the syringe exchange, pharmacy syringe distribution programs, drug treatment, and other harm reduction efforts they engage in—and all the ways they help each other to have safer and happier lives.

“Some people who inject drugs do NOT seem to

get infected with either virus.

What are their resources or strategies?

How might you, your friends or your children

learn from how they did it?”

To read the full article and pick up a few tips, click here.

One of those videos you just gotta have a listen too…

This is another terrific Exchange Supplies production -a straight up talk from a wonderful woman called Magdalena Harris. Mags, a Kiwi now living in London talks straight to camera about her life as a committed career drug user and her journey telling how she managed to pull all her experiences together and marry up her knowledge of drugs with academia. A really empowering story, Mags eloquently and succinctly takes us through her life as a street drug user – New Zealand style -with all its pharmacological nuances, to treatment and methadone which left her even more despairing as she battled the punitive ‘clinic system’. Make no mistake, this is no self pity story. This is upfront and in your face -but more than that it is extremely perceptive and Mags is able to tell us just how valuable those years of using were to the work she does today.Many will empathise with her battle with hepatitis C and her dilemma over ‘to treat or not to treat’  – and at each turn of the story you will find something you can take from it to empower, inspire, laugh or get angry. For just 15 minutes, its well worth a look readers. Nice one Mags, thanks for being so honest but more than that even, thanks for the inspiration. And thanks to Exchange Supplies for bringing us another goodie! we love you guys!

Hepatitis C

A simplified diagram of the Hepatitis C virus ...

Replication cycle of the Hepatitis C virus

Once known as Hepatitis Non A Non B, Hepatitis C has been discussed a great deal in the using community over the last 20 years. Here, BP goes behind the ‘Hep C test’ where many of us once stopped, discovering why further tests are so important in getting to the bottom of your own Hep C diagnosis. There is a lot to know about when it comes to your own virus and then can be even more to consider when it comes to deciding if and when you’re going to start treatment. Especially, when, in 2015 we stand at the helm of a whole range of very effective HCV drugs and the word ‘cure’ is on every pharmaceutical companies lips.

In the last issue, BP ‘introduced’ the liver, briefly discussing what it does and how it does it. This issue, we want to look more closely at a virus that has affected the livers of an estimated 215,000 – 600,000 people in the UK alone, 170 million people worldwide with some 3 million more joining the global ranks each year. BP wanted to find some straightforward answers to some essential questions on Hepatitis C and what you may want to consider if you have been diagnosed Hep C (HCV) positive. (BP will look into treatments for HCV next issue).

Hepatitis C is?…

The actual word “hepatitis’ means inflammation or swelling of the liver. This can be caused by chemicals, drugs, drinking too much alcohol or by different kinds of viruses. Hepatitis C is just one of a number of hepatitis viruses (including A, B,D, E, G) and they are all completely different from one another. It can be hard to get your bead around just how small viruses really are. HCV is estimated to be 80 nanometers in diameter (around 30 billion would fit on this dot {,} – another reason why handwashing before and after injecting is so important; be especially vigilant if someone injects you after they’ve just had a hit – they could have microscopic particles of blood on their fingers and then may place them on your injection site. HCV is known to be remain active outside the body for some time so wash your hands and tell others to wash theirs! The hepatitis C virus is in fact a group of viruses, similar enough to be called HCV virus, yet different enough to be classified into subgroups.


Several families of hepatitis C have been observed around The world and these are known as genotypes, because they differ in their genetic make up. They arc usually classified as HCV genotype 1 ,or 2, or 3, etc. Some genotypes respond better to treatment than others so it is important to identify your genotype when considering treatment for Hep C..


Within each genotype, there are subtypes. These are classified as HCV subtype la, or Ib, Ic, etc and within a subtype, incredibly minute differences will exist among individual viruses, called quasispecies – several million quasispecies would exist within a subtype.

To read the rest of this BP article, and find out how Hep C can affect you, click here.

%d bloggers like this: