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HIV and AIDS

What Are The Chances Of Getting Hepititis Or AIDS From A Tattoo Needle?

08/16/2000

Question:

My daughter got a tattoo today and was told that the place makes their own needles and uses them 3 times. They told her that it was safe because they auto clave them. Could you please tell me what are the chances of her getting hepititis B or AIDS? Thank you so much. If she has a chance of getting anything, could you tell me what you recommend she should do?

Answer:

I cannot give the exact risk of getting an infection from tattoos, but tattooing is associated with an increased risk of hepatitis B and hepatitis C. In the past syphilis has also been transmitted via tattooing. I am not aware of documented cases of HIV contracted via tattooing although it is theoretically possible. The Canadian Medical Association published guidelines for tattoo parlors to follow to minimize risk of infection. You can obtain these guidelines by calling the CMA at (613)731-8610, ext. 2307 or (888)855-2555 or via the Internet at the link below. These are lengthy guidelines, but the highlight is that pigments, razors for shaving the skin, and needles should be used only on one person. Needles should not be dipped into common containers (pigments can be poured into small units which are then discarded) nor should the tattooist test their sharpness on his or herself. Used needles should be discarded. Autoclaving machines need maintenance and testing to be sure that they reach sufficient temperatures to sterilize. A tattooist who served as a consultant for the CMA`s guidelines noted that single-use tattoo needles cost $35 per thousand, so I have concerns about a parlor that makes and reuses its own needles. I suggest reading the guidelines carefully and then observing tattooing in the parlor to determine whether or not they tattoo safely.

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Response by:

Amy Beth Kressel, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati