does tattooing really pose a risk for HIV?

From Real Health magazine


Tattoos done in prisons are associated with higher HIV rates. But can getting inked outside the pen leave a permanent mark on your health?

By Stephanie Wolf

Yes, says Amy Lansky, PhD, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “Any percutaneous [performed through the skin] exposure, including tattooing, has the potential for transferring infectious blood.”

So, whether you’re a tenderfoot (a body art newbie) or a veteran illustrated man or woman, take these universal precautions before heading to the tattoo parlor:

  • Don’t try this at home. Improvised devices, such as sewing needles or paper clips, may be hollow-bore, meaning they’ll transfer more blood than a tattoo needle and increase risk. It’s healthier to seek out a professional—and you’ll probably be happier with the
  • results too.
  • Go to a licensed facility. States enforce standards to control the spread of infection. If your shop can’t show a license, it’s likely not up to code. For a state-by-state list of regulations, visit: aaatattoodirectory.com/tattoo_regulations or contact your health department—it also keeps track of complaints filed against local artists.
  • Take a tour. Make sure the tattoo parlor is pristine; a shoddy shop could indicate other unclean habits. Observe whether potential tattooists wash their hands, disinfect their workstations and safely dispose of all equipment.
  • Check the works. Your artist should use disposable single-use gloves, needles, razors, tubes and inks. If you see instruments soaking in sterilizing fluid, they’ve been used on someone else and could carry HIV or other blood-borne infections (such as hepatitis B or C). You wouldn’t share a needle at the doc, so don’t do it here.
  • Trust your gut. Tattoos are meant to beautify your body, not endanger your health. If you are in a situation that feels unsafe, walk out. A tat ain’t worth all that.

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