Call to end tattooist HIV discrimination

People who have HIV are being “widely discriminated” against by tattoo studios across Scotland, a charity has said.
Getting a tattoo is now more popular than ever. Picture: TSPLGetting a tattoo is now more popular than ever. Picture: TSPL
Getting a tattoo is now more popular than ever. Picture: TSPL

HIV Scotland chief executive Nathan Sparling has written to councils urging them to revoke the licence of any studio that is found to have engaged in discriminatory practices.

The letter outlines the experiences of several individuals who were denied service because of their condition.

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Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their HIV status. One case involved a man in Glasgow who said that they had been “refused point blank” by a tattooist after stating that he was HIV positive under a section for health conditions.

Another instance involved an individual in Clydebank who was rejected for a tattoo on “safety grounds”, despite having paid a deposit and indicating that their condition is undetectable and cannot be passed on.

They added that they were able to get a tattoo at a different studio.

Mr Sparling said councils should consider revoking licences if discrimination has taken place.

“We’re calling on local authority leaders to take action to stop what has become widespread discrimination against people living with HIV in tattoo studios.

“Since issuing a simple call for people living with HIV to tell us their experiences of tattoo studios, we were shocked at the level of blatant discrimination solely on the basis of HIV status.

“This discrimination fuels the stigma, myths, and misconceptions about HIV, and must be weeded out if we’re to truly reach zero new HIV transmissions. As Scotland’s HIV charity we want people living with HIV to know that this discrimination is unlawful, unethical, and unnecessary, and we will advocate on behalf of individuals that have faced such discrimination to ensure that this never happens again.

“It’s always important to recognise that people living with HIV on effective treatment do not pass HIV on to their sexual partners. In the case of tattoo studios, their standard infection controls – single-use needles and sterilised equipment – are enough to negate any risk of HIV transmission.

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“We want council leaders to commit to reviewing licences and ensuring that where discrimination happens, appropriate action will be taken.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman indicated that challenging the stigma around HIV is a key step in tackling discrimination.

She said: “Stigma remains one of the biggest barriers to HIV testing, undermines prevention efforts and can stop people from accessing treatment and support. Tackling stigma is one of the five high level priorities of our Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework. We can all play our part in making life better for those living with HIV and it is important that we continue to work together to eradicate the stigma around the virus and tackle the false myths and prejudices that still surround it.”