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Bleach, water and HIV

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2002 - Spring


Although proven effective in preventing the spread of HIV, needle exchange programs remain unfunded by the federal government, largely for political reasons. Yale scientists, whose earlier work was fundamental in proving the efficacy of needle exchange, reported recently that in a worst-case scenario in which sterile syringes are not available, rinsing syringes with a bleach solution or even plain water can provide effective protection against infection. “We found that for the type of syringe usually used by drug injectors, a solution of bleach and nine parts water disinfects the syringe if the solution is drawn in and squirted back out twice,” said Robert Heimer, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and pharmacology and principal investigator of the study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: JAIDS. “We found that rinsing three times with clean water reduced the likelihood of recovering live virus by 99 percent.” While not absolutely protective against HIV, Heimer said, “these measures reinforce the adage that prevention is never perfect and never ending.”

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