The Risk Of HIV Infection From Tatooing & Body Piercing,What You Didn’t Know

Tattooing can be described as the production of a permanent design on the human body through
the introduction of external pigments and/or dyes into the dermis using needles or other sharp
instruments, whilst body piercing is defined as “the perforation of the skin and underlying tissues in
order to create a tunnel in the skin through which jewellery may be inserted”1-3

The evidence base indicates that these practices have grown in popularity in recent years but the prevalence of tattoos and body piercings varies widely between reported studies. A 2012 online cross-sectional survey in
the United States (US) demonstrated a tattoo prevalence of 21% in those aged 18 years and above
whilst a study undertaken in Germany in 2005 revealed a tattoo prevalence of 8.5% in individuals
aged between 14 – 93 years4,5. A report published by the European Union in 2015 estimated tattoo
prevalence across Europe at 12% and that up to 24% of individuals living in the US are tattooed6
With regard to the prevalence of body piercings, cross-sectional studies in the UK, Australia and
Germany found prevalence rates of 10%, 8% and 6.5% respectively5,7,8
The increasing practice of tattooing and body piercing has raised concerns amongst healthcare
professionals and policy-makers alike, who recognise the potential risk of transmission of
bloodborne viruses through such practices9

While there remains no enacted legislation pertaining to
tattoo premises in Ireland, the Department of Health is currently engaged in drafting tattooing and
body piercing infection control guidelines for practitioners 6
. A review of the literature to examine
the risk of transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from tattooing and body piercing as
a prelude to this work is necessary in the first instance



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