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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