HIV risks associated with tattooing, piercing, scarification and acupuncture


Key take-home messages
  • There is strong evidence supporting the risk of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and/or syphilis transmission through unsafe tattooing practices though the evidence is less clear when it comes to HIV transmission.
  • The prevalence of blood-borne diseases and subsequent risk of transmission through tattooing is especially high among people in correctional facilities.
  • The popularity of tattooing and piercing, especially among young people, and the risk involved with these activities makes it worthy of attention. Risk reduction messages to youth should consistently address these behaviors.
  • We found no research evidence about the HIV risk associated with scarification, body piercing or acupuncture. General preventive rules and guidelines similar to other blood-borne infectious diseases (i.e. hepatitis B and C) should be followed to prevent onward transmission through these practices.


The Ontario HIV Treatment Network: Rapid Response Service




  • Population(s)
    • Prisoners
    • General HIV- population
  • Co-infections
    • Hepatitis B, C
    • Syphilis


Abstract/Full paper

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