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Hepatitis and HIV CoinfectionHepatitis and HIV Coinfection
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tattooed lady
Nov 24, 2001

This past year I got a tattoo. I went to a reputable place and asked to see that they had an autoclave, as well as an ultrasonic tank. Ink was not reused and gloves and plastic wraps were all single use, as well as needles and tubes. bag on machine, etc. What risk is there for hep C if all these practices were performed? I know HIV transmission has not been documented in tattooing, but hep C has recently gotten some exposure. My tattooist was confident that no infections have come from his practices, but what's your opinion on tattooing? In my research I have found to studies that claim opposite results, one in 2000 said no increased infection with tattooed people, one in 2001 said there was an increase. Thanks! Tattooed lady

Response from Dr. Fried

I wonder if "reputable" and "tattoo parlor" belong together in the same sentence. The exact risk of acquiring hepatitis C from a tattoo is not known. Presently, it is not considered one of the MAJOR risk factors associated with HCV infection. As you pointed out the published data may be conflicting. Large studies of tattoos as a risk factor for HCV are underway.

Of course, the person performing your tattoo cannot be certain that his practices have not been associated with HCV infection, since most infections are completely silent. That is why it is a difficult area to study. What you describe are universal precautions which are always a good idea. BUT, no matter how vigilant one is, there is always the risk of breakdown of universal precautions that could promote a blood-borne infection.

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