HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a presently incurable disease involving a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. It is a blood-borne virus that makes it difficult for individuals to fight off infection and, if not managed with medication, can be a life-threatening disease.
Since it can be transmitted through open wounds and contact with infected blood, you may be concerned about the potential to contract HIV through tattooing. We understand the severity of this concern and have compiled important research that covers the topic thoroughly.
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 What Are the Risks of Getting HIV From a Tattoo?
- 2 Can You Get HIV From Tattoos?
- 3 How to Keep Yourself Safe
- 4 Our Final Thoughts
What Are the Risks of Getting HIV From a Tattoo?
It’s difficult to answer this question without knowing exactly where you intend to get your tattoo. The primary factor that will minimize your risk of contracting any kind of infection will be the professionalism and licensure of your tattoo parlor.
Your tattoo parlor should be up-to-date on certifications, should be licensed in understanding and managing blood-borne pathogens, and should have their sanitization and health ministry certificates on full display. Artists should use disposable gloves and one-time-use needles, and clean their station after every client.
Despite all these precautions, there is still a risk of HIV contamination through unsterilized needles damaged packaging, or even contamination of the ink being used. This is not a concern in a well-managed, professional, high-quality, and usually more expensive tattoo shop.
Can You Get HIV From Tattoos?
The tattoo itself is not the HIV risk, but the conditions you are tattooed in. Anywhere public where broken skin and blood are involved, you are at risk of a potential HIV infection.A hygienic and professional tattoo shop has a very low risk for HIV.
How to Check if a Tattoo Studio is Hygienic
If you are investigating the professionalism of a potential tattoo parlor you are interested in, first check online reviews and testimonials of others. Then, prior to booking your tattoo, visit the shop with a list of questions such as:
- Can I see your licensing and certifications?
- What sanitation practices does your shop follow?
- Are your needles, gloves, and ink one-time-use?
- Do your tattoo artists have blood-borne pathogen certifications?
- How are items or the rooms sterilized after use?
- Are your tattoo guns metal or plastic? (Plastic cannot be sterilized properly.)
How It Could Be Transmitted
Since HIV is transmitted through the blood and bodily fluids, you would need to contract the virus through used needles, shared ink, or equipment that has not properly been disinfected. This is why we always recommend going to a reputable tattoo shop rather than getting a tattoo out of your friend’s basement.
But this is not something you should be worried about. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “While the CDC accedes that there is a theoretical risk of transmission, there has yet to be a single documented case of HIV by any form of body art.”
I’m HIV Positive - Do I Need to Disclose my Status to my Tattoo Artist?
Legally, you are not obligated to disclose your HIV status to your tattoo artist. But considering your tattoo artist is working under a condition that involves contact with your blood and therefore contact with the virus, out of respect for your artist and their safety, you should consider being transparent with your artist about your status. This allows them to better prepare for your session as well as take extra precautions for their own safety and the safety of clients following you.
While there is a nearly zero percent risk for your tattoo artist if you are HIV positive, medical conditions should always be discussed in your consultation with your artist prior to getting your tattoo, as your condition may actually severely impact the healing of your tattoo.
How to Keep Yourself Safe
You are almost always completely safe when you are getting a tattoo from a professional, clean, and reputable shop. When it comes to HIV in particular, transmission isn’t as simple as coming into contact with an infected drop of blood. In fact:
- The person who is HIV positive needs a high viral load of HIV in their blood
- There must be significant bleeding on the equipment and it was not cleaned properly between clients
- You need a significant amount of the blood or bodily fluid to come into contact with your bloodstream in order to become infected
The easiest way to keep yourself safe is to:
- Research the shop thoroughly.
- Check the shop for certifications, licenses, and the like.
- Ask many questions on your arrival.
- Be aware of the sanitation and disinfection procedures that the shop follows between clients.
- Always disclose medical conditions or concerns.
Do I Need to Take a Test After Having a Tattoo?
We will be honest: this is going a little overboard and if you’ve done your research beforehand and selected a high-quality shop, this will be a completely unnecessary step. Of course, if it helps ease your own anxieties to get an HIV test after getting a tattoo, that is your prerogative, especially if you witnessed questionable practices during your session.
Our Final Thoughts
With no recorded cases by the CDC on the transmission of HIV via tattoo shops or body modification parlors, your risk to contract HIV from a tattoo is practically at zero percent. We always recommend that you do thorough research into what shop you are trusting with your tattoo, and ensure their professionalism by checking out their certifications and how they manage cleaning stations between clients. Of course, every procedure involving blood and bodily fluids involves a little risk, but you are generally very safe to get a tattoo without fear of HIV.