The number of tattoo operators in Samoa has increased tremendously and there is a huge interest in tattooing from tourists and Samoans visiting from overseas.
The Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, who made a presentation in 2011 at the International Tattoo Festival where he spoke about blood-borne diseases and their risks is now investigating the case of a man who was diagnosed with HIV Aids at the hospital after his tattoo became infected last month.
Leausa warned that if the Ministry finds something deadly in the investigation that warrants closure of the tattoo business, it will do so, in accordance with the Health Ordinance Act.
“We are looking at formulating a policy but then it comes under all the infection control policies, a wider policy.”
“And if we feel that there is something deadly that warrants closure, we will close (tattoo business)…that is all under the Health Ordinance Act.”
“Like any other case, we are doing a lot of contact and blood tests.”
“We are blood testing the tattooist, (his) helpers and people who came in before and after (to get a tattoo from the tattooist) to screen a wide scope of people.”
The Director General said they respect the confidentiality of the person involved and his identity will not be revealed.
Health has recently received two new cases of HIV Aids including the man with the infected tattoo.
“We have seen one of the cases of an infection with the person who tested positive with HIV and thought it’s time to act, remind and review people of the processes and health prevention procedures,” he added.
“Last month a person had a tattoo which became infected and when he sought treatment, he found that he has HIV. We are looking at whether he had it before he got the tattoo.
We have seen one case locally who did not get a tattoo but he has HIV, so we have two new cases of HIV.”
There is currently no legislation that guides the work of tattooists.
He emphasised the importance of the Ministry of Health working together with the tattooists to increase their knowledge and ensure they are aware of safety measures.
“They don’t see it, but the person might look strong and carry the virus,” he said.
“It’s up to them to make sure they take care and know the risks they are taking especially with the tourists coming in and if they don’t know their status, it’s their own risk to take.”
“They (tattooists) can always contact us to get blood tests to ensure they are safe.”