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Q. Can getting a tattoo transmit HIV infection?

Answered by
Dr. Suneetha B S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Dec 21, 2018

Hi doctor,

I have found out that there is possible, though less likely to be infected by HIV through tattooing if done carefully and professionally with the equipment either sterilized or new. What I am anxious about is that my fiance got a tattoo done yesterday, unprofessionally (it was done by a local tattoo artist in our village who gives tattoos at the artist’s own home). My fiance had his parent's consent before he got this tattoo. But, young as we are, we are not yet aware of the risks of this unprofessional method of tattooing. This morning, my mother warned me about the risks of getting HIV through the tattoo.

I am concerned because I was an eye-witness of the process, the artist just drafted the design with a pen. I saw the artist pour the ink from the bottle to a cup that has obviously been used before. I just found out today that new needles should be used, and I am troubled because I did not see the artist change the needles before he gave my fiance his tattoo. While tattooing the artist is wiping off the blood and extra ink off of my fiance’s skin with wet cotton (he just used tap water in a basin). Lastly, when the tattoo was done, he wiped Petroleum jelly over the area. Now, I am very anxious because months ago I found out that HIV and AIDS are very common in our area.

These are my questions. Is it possible that my fiance might have acquired HIV through the tattoo process because of the unsterilized and reused equipment? How high is the risk of him being infected? Should I advise him to get an HIV test? And if yes, what specific type of test and when should he get the test? What other health issues are more likely acquired by my fiance after the tattoo session?

Dr. Suneetha B S

Diabetology Microbiology Nutritionist


Welcome to

I understand your concern. Firstly, stop worrying. There is a solution to your problem. It is true that unsterile needles used for tattooing can lead to the spread of certain blood-borne infections. HIV virus is quite unstable outside the human body, so it is less likely for the virus to have been active on the needles, but we cannot rule out the chance of him acquiring the infection. HIV virus does not usually show up on blood tests very soon. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor about the exposure and your fiance can take post-exposure prophylaxis. Some medicines will be given that will help to prevent infection in people who might have been exposed to the virus. There may be a risk of other blood-borne infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tuberculosis or Staphylococcus aureus. These can be prevented by taking appropriate treatment. Please talk to your doctor. I hope that helps.

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