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body piercing & tattoos

Apr 20, 1998

IF I was pierced in the navel with a contaminated HIV needle, what is the likelihood I could have contracted it?The needle was hollow bore, and the place I went to claims to use one time only needles, but I still feel scared.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Body piercing and tattoos can be risky for HIV if the blood of a previous customer were to get directly into your bloodstream within minutes of leaving their body. For body piercing, this could occur if the piercing equipment was contaminated with the blood of a previous customer, and the equipment was immediately re-used (without being disinfected). For tattoos, transmission could also occur if the needles and ink were contaminated with the blood of a previous customer, and were then immediately re-used. The key here is that the blood of a previous customer, has to get into your bloodstream within minutes, in order to be infected with HIV.

The greater risks from body piercing and tattoos, are for the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses, which are much more infectious than HIV, and can survive outside the body longer than HIV (days or even longer in the case of Hepatitis B). Like HIV, both of these viruses are transmitted through direct blood-to-blood contact.

However, in most cases, people doing body piercing and tattoos are very careful about preventing their customers from being exposed to bloodborne diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. This is for several reasons.

1) In some places, local laws require tattooists and persons doing body piercing, to follow universal precautions (infection control guidelines and practices) to prevent the spread of bloodborne diseases.

2) If places doing body piercing and tattoos were not careful, and people became infected with bloodborne diseases, these businesses would lose all of their customers (and end up going out of business), since people would be scared to go there. It is therefore in their best interest to follow established infection control guidelines.

As long as you go to a reputable business, and they follow established infection control guidelines, you would not be at risk for HIV and other bloodborne diseases.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at "" or call me at (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!

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