Everything You Need To Know About Tattoos & HIV

John Dietrich

According to most sources, there have been no documented cases of a single case of HIV being contracted through tattooing. Still, though, we’re told that getting tattoos is risky because there’s a chance of getting this particular disease. Why?

HIV is a very misunderstood illness, even in 2017. When it comes to HIV and tattoos the messages are pretty mixed. Can people with HIV get tattoos? Is there are risk to a tattoo artist in inking someone who’s HIV positive? Does a tattoo heal different on someone with HIV? We looked into all of these questions, and more, to fill you in on everything you need to know about tattoos and HIV.

Communication Is Key

Tattoo MachinePhoto: Nesselried-ink

If you’re HIV positive and looking to get a tattoo, it’s important that you’re transparent with your chosen artist about your disease. Some shops or artists might have policies against tattooing people with blood borne illnesses or autoimmune diseases, but it’s not legal for them to do so. If you run into this issue with a particular shop or artist, don’t get discouraged. File a report against them, and find a different artist, because there are lots out there who have no issue inking someone with HIV.

There’s a level of trust between the client and artist, so you need to let your artist know if you have any kind of illness, especially ones that are transmitted through blood. Sure, your artist won’t directly be handling your blood, but the bodily fluid will be present, so to keep everyone on the same page, make sure your artist knows your situation. They might even be certified in working with bloodborne pathogens so they can give you the best possible aftercare advice – but you won’t know that if you don’t inform them.

Are There Any Risks For The Artists?

Sterile TattooingPhoto: Damask Tattoo

Tattoo artists, don’t let stigma fool you. There is almost zero risk for a tattoo artist in getting HIV from inking a client who’s HIV positive, especially when following proper hygiene and safety procedures. Licenced artists and parlors should already be using sterilization steps for all equipment and using new or single-use ink pots with each customer. The artist should also be wearing single-use gloves during the tattoo process, so there’s zero direct contact with the client’s blood.

There’s also a certification available for tattoo artists called the bloodborne pathogen certificate, and its offered by places like the Red Cross. These programs will teach tattoo artists how to minimize their person risk of exposure, as well proper ways to prevent any kind of contamination of equipment or ink. This course can also teach artists more about the virus itself, like the fact that it starts to die as soon it comes into contact with air.

Healing Tattoos When You Have HIV

HIV Awareness - Hope TattooPhoto: Pinterest

If your CD4 count, which is basically a cellular measurement of your body’s ability to fight off infection, is low then there could be an increased risk of infection while your tattoo is healing. Most people with HIV get these levels checked pretty regularly, so they’d have an idea of when their immune system is back up and running to workable capacity. This would be the best time to to get some new ink done. Beyond that, there should be no real difference in the tattoo healing process for someone who has HIV.

HIV Awareness Ribbon Tattoo

No matter what you may have heard, it’s not super easy to contract or transmit HIV. Unless a tattoo artist or parlor is completely foregoing any and all sterilization and cleaning procedures, and reusing needles on clients, there’s no real risk of getting HIV through tattooing. This has everything to do with finding licensed artists and parlors, and making sure they’re reputable before you book.

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