Dodgy overseas tattoos can be life-risking decisions


Man getting tattood in Indonesia Source: Wikimedia
Man getting tattood in Indonesia Source: Wikimedia

Australian travellers who get a tattoo or body piercing while on holiday are unaware of, or ignoring the risk of the potential to cause HIV and hepatitis infections.

In 2012, Indonesian authorities estimated that one in four of Bali’s prostitutes were HIV positive, a number that will continue to increase.

It is Hepatitis B and C that are causing greater concern in Indonesia and its South-east Asian neighbours – they are bigger killers than Malaria, Dengue Fever and HIV/AIDS.

Registered nurse and National Operations Manager of Travelvax Australia, Tonia Buzzolini said avoiding infection is sheer luck, as it is impossible for a lone operator offering cut-price services to keep equipment sterile between clients.

She said microorganisms can enter via puncture wounds any time a needle pierces the skin.

“Some blood-borne viruses can live on objects and surfaces for up to three weeks, to be spread if surfaces are not disinfected effectively of if equipment that comes in contact with them is not cleaned and sterilised between clients,” she said.

Ms Buzzolini said Hepatitis B or C, and HIV are slow, silent and potentially fatal.

“You may not find out for years that you’re infected and by then the damage may be severe and irreversible.”

Senior lecturer at Griffith University Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management, Dr Ying Wang said Indonesia was Australia’s second largest outbound destination, following New Zealand in the year 2014-2015.

Devil tattoo Source: Wikimedia
Devil tattoo Source: Wikimedia

“These countries’ close proximity to Australia is no doubt an attraction, but they also offers beaches, warm weather and are value for money,” she said.

“Many Australians love Bali and Phuket for the beaches, welcoming people, reasonable tourism prices.”

Dr Wang explained tourists get into a holiday-mode and can become self-indulgent, which then can lead to uninformed decisions such as spur-of-the-moment tattoos in cheaper studios.

“One of the biggest motivations behind travel is escapism, travellers want to escape from reality at home which may be constrained by a lot of things,” she said.

“While on holiday, some of them are in a liminal space and they temporarily abandon all the status and rules at home, their normal ways of evaluating of safety and risk are disrupted, and they engage in things they probably won’t do at home.”

For more information on how to travel safely, visit

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