Have you ever considered getting some Body Art – tattoos, piercing, branding, or subdermal implants? Did you know that there may be risks involved, such as becoming infected with HIV or Hepatitis C? Do you assume that all tattoo parlours (body art studios) are safe? Can Body Art be safe? Yes, Body Art can be safe…Body Art in its many forms is not new, and neither are the health risks associated with having it done. It’s very possible to contract a fatal disease or infection through unsafe Body Art. But if it`s performed correctly, and your artist has made infection control a priority, there is little to no risk involved.
AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM) this week unveiled its campaign to promote safer tattooing and body piercing. The campaign, titled Was Body Art all you got?, is meant to help empower those seeking piercings or tatoos on what questions to ask (of body art practitioners) and what to look for to help ensure that the practices of the (body art) studio are safe. The campaign includes a poster, pamphlet and reminder cards developed by the organization in conjunction with youth organizations and body art practitioners to equip youth to determine whether their tattoo or piercing artist is respecting health standards to prevent transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C. The organization and its collaborators in the project now call upon public health authorities to regulate the industry to reduce the transmission of these incurable diseases.
ACCM undertook this initiative with funding support from the Hepatitis C Program of Health Canada after observing questionable practices in a number of tattoo establishments in Montreal in 2001. Currently, in the Province of Quebec, a body art practitioner does not need a specific license, permit or training to practice his or her art. Body art studios and practitioners are not required to be aware of or engage in appropriate safety measures to prevent transmission of HIV and Hepatitis virus. Taken with the fact that body art studios are not regularly inspected by health officials in order to ensure that appropriate safety measures are being implemented, these factors together serve to put many people engaging in body art at risk of contracting fatal or life-altering diseases. “In the absence of rules governing the industry, we thought our best option was to work to make smarter consumers of these services,” says Odette Pretty, Project Coordinator. “We were happy to be joined in our efforts by youth groups and body art practitioners who are equally concerned about this situation.” Experienced body art practitioners contributed their knowledge of their art and safety measures to the project and youth groups helped to ensure that the materials developed would be interesting and informative for their members.
Keith Stewart, proprietor of Tatouage Artisitique, was one of the participants on the project’s advisory committee. “We are happy with the outcome of this project,” says Stewart, “but we have to recognize that it is only a first step. Public health authorities should be inspecting shops and closing down those which don’t respect health standards. It is the bad shops that ruin the industry’s reputation and that has an impact on the rest of us.” Stewart joined with others in signing a letter to Québec Minister of Health and Social Services Philippe Couillard calling for regulation of the industry.
As part of the ACCM Was Body Art all you got? campaign are reminder cards that list a safer tattooing checklist. Among some of the things to look for in a body art studio to help increase the chances that a tattoo will be safe are (for the complete listing, contact ACCM or visit their web site):
Your studio is using a recently tested autoclave
Sealed, sterilized needles and tubes are used for your tattoo
Anything that your artist touches during the tattoo procedure is either disposable, sterilized or is covered by a new plastic layer
Your artist wears new, disposable gloves during the tattoo procedure
Your artist assembles the tattoo machine in front of you
Tattooing ink, needles, and razors are all new for your tattoo
ACCM’s Body Art Project wraps up at the end of September, but the organization will continue to distribute the project materials and to offer its workshop on safer body art to interested youth groups. Elements of the project are also available on ACCM’s web site at www.accmontreal.org. The organization will also seek funding to adapt the materials for French-speaking youth.
For more information, contact AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM)