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Illegal to refuse tattoos to people with HIV

Image credit: PA

Illegal to refuse tattoos to people with HIV

Tattoo studios that refuse services to people with HIV are breaking the law, according to new guidelines.

Five leading HIV organisations have said that refusing people who live with HIV a tattoo, piercing or beauty treatment is illegal under the Equality Act.

The organisations also said that it is “unjustified” and a potential infringement of data protection to ask a client whether they are HIV positive before agreeing to provide services.

The joint statement comes from HIV Scotland, the British HIV Association, the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, the National AIDS Trust and the Terrence Higgins Trust.

The statement says: “Refusing to tattoo or to provide a cosmetic or routine beauty treatment to a client on the basis of their HIV status cannot be justified. To do so would constitute discrimination under the Equality Act 2010”.

It continues: “Collecting information about HIV status must be justifiable, as per current data protection legislation (Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation 2018,) and is unnecessary in the context of tattooing, piercing and cosmetic or routine beauty treatments.”

The guidance also explains that basic licensing requirements, such as sterilising equipment and using gloves, is enough to prevent the spread of HIV.

HIV Scotland estimates that there are 5,881 individuals living with HIV in Scotland, of which 91 per cent have been diagnosed.

The vast majority of people with HIV in Scotland are on effective treatment, meaning that the virus cannot be detected in their blood.

Those with undetectable viral load have zero risk of passing on the virus sexually, studies have shown.

The statement also draws attention to the “very low” risk from needle-stick injuries.

Chief Executive of HIV Scotland, Nathan Sparling said: “Too many people living with HIV have been discriminated in tattoo studios, and today’s joint-statement makes clear that it is illegal and shouldn’t happen in modern-day Scotland. Whilst HIV stigma continues to manifest across Scotland, we thwart progress for testing, treatment and prevention.

“Tattoo studios need to be aware that standard infection control procedures, such as sterilising equipment, are enough to prevent any transmission of blood-borne viruses. This statement is also important as it clearly states that HIV, or the medication people take, will not be impacted by a tattoo – and that such procedures are safe for people living with HIV. 

“We hope that this statement will ensure that people living with HIV can access tattoo studios without fear of being turned away. Local Councils should now issue this guidance to all license holders, and ensure that license holders are investigated properly if any future cases of discrimination are reported.”

Responding to a question in May about tattoo parlours refusing services to customers who disclose their HIV, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “I am concerned to hear of the difficulties that some HIV-positive people are experiencing in getting a tattoo. I am clear that there is no place for HIV stigma in today’s Scotland.

“The standard infection control procedures that all tattoo studios should have in place provide protection against the transmission of blood-borne viruses including HIV.

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