News from Hepatitis Week of March 9, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 10

Study: Tattoos, Body Piercings Increase Hepatitis Risk

Many tattoo and body-piercing shops may be putting their clients at risk of hepatitis B and C infection as well as HIV, according to a study reported in the March-April issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior.

Although HIV and some forms of hepatitis are more likely to be transmitted through sexual contact, the diseases can be transmitted through tattooing, ear piercing, barbershop shaving or manicurist services.

In a survey of Australian tattoo and body-piercing shops, researchers found that although 95 percent of the operators and managers agreed that governmental infection-control guidelines are needed, only half said they followed them.

The survey also found that many of the shopkeepers did not know about standard infection-control principles and practices, and that tattoo shop operators were more likely than body piercers, beauty therapists and hairdressers to be knowledgeable about infection control.

Although more than half of the shopkeepers acknowledged that they needed to follow the guidelines more closely, many said they face barriers to compliance, including a perception by clients that disinfection and sterilization are a turnoff. Shopkeepers also said their shops are too busy and their workers do not readily comply with guidelines.

"These findings suggest that there is a considerable opportunity to increase infection-control compliance among skin-penetration operators," concluded study author John Wiggers and his colleagues.

Wiggers, of the University of Newcastle, told Medical Week that the potential for hepatitis transmission is apparent across most countries and not just Australia. He said this risk is recognized in the United States and Canada by the development of legislation and/or guidelines in both countries.

Other sources: American Journal of Health Behavior