Written by Lynn Loheide and Edited by Margo Dellaquila
With the ongoing controversy surrounding the subject of piercing/tattooing someone who is HIV positive, we felt it necessary to address a few things. The question at hand is basically this: Can you get pierced/tattooed if you are HIV positive? Here at Icon, we believe that yes, you absolutely can! There are some different considerations to keep in mind though, and thats what will be further discussed. We’d also like to dispel some myths surrounding being pierced/tattooed when you’re HIV+.
Any disease or illness that can effect the healing of a piercing/tattoo should always be taken into consideration beforehand. Things that can affect healing include, but are not limited to: HIV, hepatitis, herpes, diabetes, skin conditions, and any heart/blood related illness. If you have been diagnosed with any of the above, it’s important to talk to your physician in regards to how these may affect your healing, as well as ensure any necessary precautions are taken prior to having work done. We constantly stress the importance of finding an educated and reputable piercer, but even the best educated piercer cannot advise you on this; so seek a medical professional to ensure any possible complications are addressed and accounted for. Once given the okay by your doctor, the next step is to inform your piercer and talk about any special considerations. Here are a few examples: someone with a bleeding or clotting disorder should expect excess bleeding when they are pierced, and should come prepared to wait around while we hold pressure and get things cleaned and clotted; they should also expect bleeding during the first few days of healing. Someone with herpes should be on antivirals for the duration of the healing process, particularly for any oral or genital piercings. If you are HIV+ then being on antiretrovirals is recommended to help with the healing process. Skin in the location of piercing should be healthy, and free from any rashes or sores. Someone with diabetes should eat a good meal and be aware of their insulin and glucose levels before coming in to be pierced and after their piercing. Each client is unique which means each piercing and set up is never the same, some clients need extra gauze, others needs glucose, etc. All of these are very easy to accommodate on our end and our staff is happy to do so to make your piercing experience a good one!
I understand that HIV in particular has a heavy stigma, especially in the tattoo and piercing industry. I would like to state that Icon is an HIV+ accepting studio, and I am an HIV informed piercer. We regularly work on HIV+ clients and are happy to do so. There has never been a proven case of HIV transmission from body piercing, but our staff does undergo HIV specific training that is primarily focused on client safety. Our staff is also trained in universal precautions; treat every client as though they have an underlying disease. This means that each client is handled with the same techniques, diagnosed or not. Unfortunately, due to the stigmas that surround things like HIV, many are too embarrassed to tell their piercers/tattoo artists for fear of being rejected. While we stress that we are an accepting, accommodating studio we also understand not everyone may be honest, and not everyone may even know! This is why it’s so important to treat every client like they have something, and to never be lax in our protocall. This is why we use fresh unbroken gloves, single use sterile equipment, and clean every area in our piercing room that comes in contact with clients using a top of the line tuberculocidal cleaner both before and after each procedure. These precautions are taken with no corners cut, for the times our clients may not be aware they have anything.
With the extensive training we follow, the only risk our clients with HIV have to worry about is the risk of their piercing not healing. Getting a piercing while your immune system is down means more opportunity for irritation; which is why we offer all cleanings and checkups for free, and strongly suggest coming in for regular followups so we can monitor your healing and ensure that everything is on track. Be sure to also keep an open and honest communication with your doctors, so they can advise you during the healing process.
*Please note that state law prevents us from piercing any area of broken, damaged, or irritated skin. If you are currently experiencing any breakouts, irritations, or skin issues, please wait until the area is healthy again before piercing. This includes psoriasis, eczema, and any other skin conditions or rashes. If you do suffer from skin conditions such as these, please be aware that many topical medications aren’t safe to go on or near a healing piercing so understand you may not be able to apply the medication while you are healing. Certain oral medications can also affect the healing of a piercing so remember to ask your doctor before stopping or starting prescriptions.
In short, we are a very open minded studio with a highly trained and specialized staff ready to meet any of your needs as a client. We are here for all our clients, whatever your considerations or needs getting pierced may be. Hopefully we see you soon!