Tattooists share concern

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia ,

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COMMON GOALS: Master tattooists with representatives of the Ministry of Health.

COMMON GOALS: Master tattooists with representatives of the Ministry of Health.

Samoan tattooist yesterday had the opportunity to share their concerns about the work they do during a consultant programme hosted by the Ministry of Health held at the Millenia Hotel. 

More than 20 tattooists gathered to learn about health initiative that raised awareness on ways to prevent the spread of blood borne diseases when in contact with blood. 

One of the concerns raised by renowned master tattooist, Sua Suluape Petelo is the operators not having the proper machines to sanitize the tools and equipment used. 

Sua who is famous for his traditional tattoo (tatau) work internationally, said the meeting with health officials is long overdue. 

He said most tattooist reuse needles on clients and it worries him. 

“Many tattooists who use machines don’t have these machines to clean the equipments,” said the master tattooist.” 

“This is an essential part of the work is to clean the tools and you cannot kill the germs by just throwing the equipment in chemicals to ensure the safety of the people.”

Su’a stressed he does not want the Ministry of Health to close down their operations because tattooing plays a big part in the Samoan culture. 

“The missionaries wanted to stop tattooing  in the past but they failed,” said Su’a. 

“It would be a great loss for our ancestors if somehow Health calls to close down our operations. Tattooing plays a big part in our Samoa lifestyle and culture. Not only has tattooing made Samoa known to the world, it is also unique in our own culture and families.”

Su’a said some of the group has made a request to Health in order for clients to fill in a consent form from the hospital to give the okay to get tattooed after they have hadblood test. 

“If this happens it will give us confidence to do our work without being worried about getting infected,” he said. 

“The most difficult thing that we are coping with at the moment, is that there are diseases like HIV and Hepatitis that we would not know if people have them or not, unless we get clearance from the hospital to confirm that information.”

 Sua said there are not enough policies in place to prepare young tattooists for their work and for the protection of people. 

Owner of the Arts Finest Tattoo Shop at Savalalo market, Paulo Mauia was in support of the initiative. 

Mr. Mauia uses modern technology, a machine to do tattoos. 

He told the Samoa Observer what the Health should look into is having routine inspections to ensure the tattooists are keeping things clean and safe. 

“We use disposalel needles but it would really great if Health can do inspections for us,” he said. 

“That will help us to maintain our standards and push tattooists to keep their tools and equipment clean for the next customer. There are always those who leave it until the next person comes and that can raise risks not only for us and the person coming to get tattoo.”

Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri told the participants it was crucial to protect their health as well as their clients. 

He said the Samoan tattoo is unique and to honour the traditional artwork, is protecting their Health. 

“The Ministry of Health invited you to begin this dialogue and build closer relationships in preventing and controlling diseases,” he said. “The programme today hopes to be a beneficial exercise for all of us. We rely on your input and experience and we will also try to help.”

 A basic health guideline for tattooing encourages tattooists to wash their hands with antibacterial soap and clean water. 

It is also required they wear disposable gloves. 

Some of the safe tattooing practices recommended by Health for traditional tatau tools is to use one set of tools for one person at a time. In the instance of a ceremony where multiple people are getting tattooed, each person should have a separate set of tools for the tattooing process.  

In the case there is only one set of tools, all tools must be cleaned and sterilized before being used on a different person to prevent the transmission of infections. 

For palagi, tattoo machines with single use disposal needles, one needle should be used on one person then safely disposed of. 

Equipment must be thoroughly cleaned of blood then sterilized each time a different person is to be tattooed.

Any equipment penetrating the skin must be sterile before use. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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