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April 7, 2018

By Max Gruber, Contributing Columnist and Editors, Mangoboss

There are two camps in the controversy over how you can
get AIDs, the autoimmune disease caused by the HIV
virus.  In one camp, there are numerous government
health authorities that believe that you cannot get AIDs
from doing things such as kissing or sharing needles. Then
there is another camp, the camp that believes that,no
matter how farfetched the transmission pathway is, we
owe to ourselves to acknowledge the possibility.

First, let's look at an example of the majority opinion, that
espoused by government agencies and respected non-
governmental agencies, NGOs such as the
National HIV
AIDS Commission Barbados

Under the rubric of Myths and Facts about HIV/AIDS, they
attempt to dismiss the possible transmission by a tattoo
needle as a myth. Here is what they say:

"Can you get HIV from tattoo needles or body piercings,
ear or other?

No. AIDS cases have not been linked with any ear or body
piercing or tattooing. While HIV transmission from body
piercing or tattooing is highly unlikely and has not yet
it is possible for the blood of an infected person
to be left on a needle that is later used to pierce or tattoo
another person
. To guard against this possibility, all
needles and equipment used for piercing and tattooing
should be new or should be sterilized between uses, and
new ink should be used for tattooing. However, other
blood-borne illnesses, such as hepatitis B and possibly
hepatitis C, can be transmitted by sharing tattooing and
piercing equipment. "

However, if you read closely, you will see that there is an
inherent contradiction in what they are saying. They are
saying "no", you cannot get AIDS from a needle shared
with a person with AIDS.  But then, two sentences later
they admit that it is possible for the blood of someone with
AIDS to be left on a tattoo needle and then injected into
another person.

Clearly, if blood is left on a needle and that needle later is
injected into another person, the infection can be shared.
How do we know that? We know that because the sharing
of needles is one of the most common ways that not AIDS
and hepatitis is shared among drug users.

The US Centers for Disease Control Warn Against Sharing
Needles of Injection Equipment

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is
perhaps the world's most respected organization dealing
with disease prevention and epidemiology.

This is their position on the HIV risk for shared needles of
injection equipment. They do not mention tattoo needles
but tattoo needles are injection devices:

"Sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment
(works) to inject drugs puts people at risk for getting or
transmitting HIV and other infections. About 1 in 10 new
HIV diagnoses in the United States are attributed to
injection drug use or male-to-male sexual contact and
injection drug use."

Tattoo Needles Are Injection Equipment

Tattoo needles do in fact pierce your skin. They need to
pierce the skin in order to leave die permanently just
below the surface of the skin.

Tattoo needles often go deep enough into the skin to draw
blood. The tattoo is then wiped and, unless the would is
too deep, the tattooing simply continues.

Tattooing can introduce infections, all health authorities
recognize. This is why some states require that tattoo
artists be licensed.

In the State of Florida, for example, licensing of tattoo
artists is handled by the County Health Department.

Al tattoo artists, whether resident in Florida or simply a
guest artist; must complete
training in blood borne
pathogens and communicable diseases

"the tattoo artist is required to have completed a
Bloodborne Pathogen and Communicable Diseases training
that is comparable or exeeding those requirements
specified in section 64E-28.006, F.A.C".

If tattooing cannot transmit HIV, a blood borne disease,
then why is there a requirement that tattoo artists
complete training in how to prevent transmission of such
bloodborne diseases.

The Fear Behind the Denials of the HIV Risk from Tattoo

We don't know whether HIV has ever been transmitted by
tattoo needles. But, the greater weight of common sense
and logic suggests that it is possible.

If that is so, then why don't health authorities simply
admit that teh possibility exists?

I believe the answer is that thy believe that acknowledging
the HIV transmission risk will provoke irrational fears of
HIV transmission from other types of innocuous activities.
They fear a return to the days when HIV carriers were
shunned and targeted by rumors.

HIV can probably be transmitted from used tattoo needles,
though the magnitude of the risk is unknown and

As a result, unfortunately, many of these authorities are
missing an opportunity to engender greater public trust in
their messages and their mission.

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Tattooing can transmit bloodborne diseases.
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