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Getting HIV as a Tattoo Artist, Got Poked by the Needle

Question: 

Hello, so ive been going crazy for something that happened about a year and a half ago and would love to get some peace of mind form you guys. I am a tattoo artist in Tijuana, Mexico, and was doing a piece on a guy who had a drug abuse past. Half way through the tattoo I lifted the machine and accidently poked myself in the finger, it wasnt a hard poke, and i dont even think it pierced my glove, so i didnt make much of it. But lately ive had a ear infection i cant seem to get rid of, saw something hiv related on tv and now my hypocondria is driving me mad. Is there a chance for me to be exposed if the needle pierced the glove and poked my finger a little bit? i remember checking for blood, and nothing, but i did feel some pain at the moment of the incident. All my materials were clean, unused and sterelized. I cant ask the guy beacuse he died of overdose a couple of months ago, helping my paranoia flare up some more. I hope u cant find time to help me with this. I thank you in advance for this and all the other work you do.

P.S. Im sorry if i screwed up the spelling, english is not my mother language.

Answer: 

Hello,

Thank you for your inquiry. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about the possibility of HIV acquisition through accidental exposure to a previously used needle while tattooing your client.

Although there appeared to be no blood following the piercing of your needle, there is in fact a low risk (evidence of transmission occurs through these activities when certain conditions are met) generally involved when sharing needles or ink to get a tattoo. Your exposure may have been brief, yet may still present a small risk of transmission due to the possible transfer of blood from your client to yourself (during the needle puncture). It is important to note that HIV transmission through tattooing is not common and presents a risk between 0.2% to 0.4% (1). In this case, we recommend referring to a physician for HIV testing to assure your safety and eliminate all concern involved with this particular exposure.

Moreover, it is equally important to note that it is near impossible to attribute symptoms such as ear infection to HIV acquisition without adequate testing.

Please continue to use caution when using needles in your workplace.

Best, AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online, Cody