Can You Contract HIV from Getting Tattooed or Body Piercings?


An individual permanently inks a tattoo onto the skin as a form of body art. Body art has come a long way, becoming a popular trend among young adults. As this art form of expression becomes mainstream, body art enthusiasts feel more prone and vulnerable to health risks. Whether it poses a risk for blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C or infections, considering how both procedures draw blood, the concern appears reasonable.

Various means transmit bloodborne diseases and infections

As you may be aware, the process of creating tattoos involves injecting ink into the dermis, which is located beneath the outermost layer of our skin, called the epidermis. This procedure is performed using a machine that punctures the skin at varying speeds and with needles of different sizes. On the other hand, body piercings involve puncturing the skin with a single needle.

If these guns and needles have not been properly disinfected, infectious diseases can be transmitted from one person to another as a result of the broken skin. It all comes down to the integrity of the person doing it.

What Are the Chances of Transmission?

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk HIV poses to individuals getting tattooed is considered as low to almost negligible. There might be a theoretical risk of transmission. Still, there is yet to be a documented case where the individual catches HIV or any other infectious disease through different forms of body art.

Here are a few conditions in which the transmission is more likely to take place;

  • The individual getting tattooed or pierced contains a high HIV viral load. This means that the presence of the virus in their blood is high.
  • The individual undergoing the body art process bleeds extensively over the equipment.
  • The customers have not disinfected the equipment it was used on.
  • Blood that has contaminated the equipment enters another customer’s body significantly for the infection to occur.

When it comes to body art, the chances of these conditions occurring and impacting the individual are slim. The possibility of an infection entering another person’s body is not as near strong as drugs being injected into the vein through the same medical instrument.

Addressing The Lingering Fears

Despite the negligibility of the concern, some individuals and artists remain cautious of the concern. The tattoo salon faced lawsuits within the same year after refusing to provide a tattoo to a 27-year-old individual based on his HIV positive status. The 27-year-old won the case, as the court cited that the action of tattooing would not have harmed the artist in any manner due to the negligible risk of the infection. Hence, giving no reason to shun it.

However, it has been suggested by several different sources, including tattoo design Inc. to avoid unlicensed or informal artists that have no prior training. The list includes gang tattooing, tattoos done in prison, and piercings commenced between friends. Consider these situations as red flags due to their higher risk of transmitting infectious diseases, rather than solely based on the potential for your worst nightmare to come true.

A tattoo is a permanent body art that is inked on the skin.

In prisons, individuals puncture tattoo designs into the skin using random objects like staples, ink tubes, paper clips, and even ballpoint pens. It is strongly recommended to avoid undergoing such procedures due to the lack of disinfection and the fact that these objects are not intended for body art purposes. Engaging in such procedures significantly increases the risk of infections. Determining the origin of the disease from body art, injections, or unprotected sex would pose a significant challenge, even if HIV is excluded.

Irrespective of the setting and circumstances, unsanitary practices of body art inherently increase the threat of blood-borne illnesses, mainly hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

If you are considering getting a tattoo or a piercing, you should communicate with the artists and look into the procedures they use for infection or disease transmission. You may even ask the artist to follow a sterilization process in front of you to ensure that you are in safe hands.

You can even choose to get in touch with the local health department to find out more about safe tattoo and piercing practices that the law has implemented. For example, some states have prohibited tattoo parlours from piercing and tattooing minors without the permission of their legal guardians.

Whatever you do, ensure you have researched and evaluated the procedure’s safety before proceeding.