Needle and syringe programs: your questions answered

If you tread on a needle and syringe in the park, should you have a HIV or hepatitis C test?

Page last updated: 2005

If a person sustains an injury from a discarded used needle in the community it usually causes a great degree of anxiety and distress. The main fear is that the injury caused by the discarded used needle may result in infection with HIV or hepatitis. The risk of acquiring these infections is extremely low. This is because HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B do not survive long outside the body. Most needles and syringes found in the community setting have been discarded for some time.

To date, there are no published reports of HIV, hepatitis C or hepatitis B infection being acquired by a member of the public after injury from a discarded used needle in the community in Australia. If you do tread on a needle and syringe, don't panic, the risk of infection is extremely low. Wash the affected area with warm soapy water, apply antiseptic and cover with a band-aid. Contact your doctor or local community health centre for confidential advice. Ask for information about a tetanus shot.

  • There are no published reports of HIV, hepatitis C or hepatitis B infection being acquired by a member of the public after injury from a discarded used needle in the community in Australia.

  • Don't panic if you do tread on a needle and syringe. Wash the area with warm soapy water, apply antiseptic and cover with a band-aid.

  • Contact your doctor or local community health centre for advice. Ask for information about a tetanus shot.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia:

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia supports Needle and Syringe Programs as a means of reducing the rate of transmission of blood borne viruses and minimising the harmful effects of illicit drug use to users and the community.