I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Western Australian Health Officials Issue Health Warning for Travelers Getting a Tattoo in Bali
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A number of Australian media outlets are warning of a threat of HIV infection from having a tattoo in Bali.
The warning comes after Western Australia’s Department of Health issued a [health warning] confirming a Western Australia man had contracted HIV after a visit to a Bali tattoo parlor.
The Western Australian health officials say “all evidence points to a tattoo received recently in Bali as being the source of the infection.”
Tattoo parlors in Indonesia operate in a largely unregulated atmosphere, while Western Australian tattooists follow a strict regime of licensing and mandatory health protocols.
Health officials in Australia are recommending against receiving a tattoo in Bali and suggesting that those who have recently had a tattoo performed on the island consult their doctor and consider the need for HIV and other blood-borne disease testing.
The cases in which HIV has been proven to have been spread by tattoos are exceedingly rare. Nonetheless, health officials have highlighted HIV, hepatitis (both B and C), and other bacterial infections as possible risks to those who undergo tattoo treatment.
Western Australian officials will not release additional details of the person purportedly infected with HIV in Bali or the name of the establishment where the tattoo was performed.
Likening the risk of a tattoo in Bali to that of having unprotected sex, some media are highlighting the rapid rise of HIV infections in Bali where one in four prostitutes is believed to be HIV positive.
For those who remain committed to receiving a tattoo while visiting Bali, here’s a non-comprehensive list of precautions to consider before “going under the tattooist’s needle:
- Autoclaves are considered the preferred method of sterilizing tattoo equipment. Pressurized steam kills bacteria. Sterilized or new needles and ink tubes should be presented in a sealed pouch that is opened in front of the client.
- Gloves must be worn by tattoo artist. The gloves should be removed and replaced every time the tattoo artists leaves the clients or touches a non-disposable item.
- HIV/AID virus dies within minutes of contact with the air. Hepatitis B viruses, however, can live for weeks. A tattoo artists who touches any unsterilized item (e.g. telephone, spray bottles, ink bottles) must put on new sterilized gloves to prevent cross-contamination.
- Ink Cups should be disposable and used to hold the ink used in a single tattooing procedure. These cups must be thrown away after the tattoo is done. Cross-contamination is possible if the same ink reservoir is used on different clients. Remember, the tattooist must remove and replace gloves when refilling an ink cup.
- Needles should be removed from sealed, sterilized pouches in the presence of the client. Look for a “sharps” container for the disposal of used needles after each tattoo. The absence of such equipment should cause the client to question if the tattooist is diligently following proper health and hygiene procedures.
- Check for a clean and newly-set-up counters for each new tattoo client. Confirm that disposables are properly handled. Does the tattooist wash his/her hands after finishing a tattoo? Is the shop clean and clinical in appearance? Non-disposable items used in the tattoo process should be segregated and sent to a sterilization systems after each tattoo is completed.
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