Can You Get HIV from Tattoo or Body Piercing?

A tattoo is a type of body art that is produced by applying ink, using a needle, into the skin’s dermis layer. This changes the pigment of the skin and can be used to make nearly any imaginable image. As the art form progresses from the fringes into the mainstream, many have started to wonder if you can get HIV from getting a tattoo or body piercing. Since tattooing and piercing both draw blood, it may seem a fair concern to some of you.

How Transmission Works?

Tattoo artists inject ink into the second layer of a person’s skin, known as the dermis, to create their designs. They do this by using a tattoo machine that punctures the skin with a series of tiny, high-speed needles (called a gun). In comparison, body piercing uses a single needle to perforate the flesh. 

Because of the broken skin, when the gun or needles are not properly disinfected, such infections can potentially be passed from one client to the next.

The Odds are Less Though

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of HIV through tattooing or body piercing is considered low to negligible

A Person Can Get HIV from a Tattoo or Body Piercing :

  • A person who is being tattooed or pierced has a high HIV viral load (meaning there is a lot of virus in his blood).
  • The person bleeds heavily on the equipment.
  • The equipment between customers is not being disinfected.
  • Blood from the infected equipment then reaches the body of the next customer in large amounts for the infection to occur.

Within the sense of body art, certain requirements are likely to be met as extremely slim. There is nowhere near as large a potential for infection as, say, injecting drug use in which the HIV-infected blood is injected directly into a vein. Despite this, there are those who remain sincerely interested, including tattoo artists. A 27-year-old man who was denied service by a Utah tattoo parlor because he was HIV-positive, filed a lawsuit against the tattoo parlor in 2017, as reported in Insurance Journal. Although the decision was reasonable it does not mean that the risk outside of a licensed parlor is insignificant. In reality, the risk of problems with unlicensed or informal artists increases. Can include gang tattoos, jail tattoos, or piercing between friends. Acute symptoms of hepatitis may develop within 2 weeks to 6 months. Infection with chronic hepatitis C can last for years and cause significant liver damage.

If you are considering getting a tattoo or a piercing, ask the parlor staff what methods they use to prevent HIV and other bloodborne infections from spreading. Often, you might ask for evidence that the artist who performs the operation is qualified and the license is up to date.

You may also consider contacting the local health department to find out what regulations are in effect in tattoo or piercing parlors about protection. Though state laws can vary considerably, most do agree on one thing: age limits. Currently, 38 states ban minors from being pierced or tattooed without parental consent

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