Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Underground tattoo industry in Dubai 'increasing hepatitis risk'

'Some guys don’t know the first thing about hygiene, sanitation and keeping instruments sterile' said one Dubai tattoo artist

Focused hepatitis C testing on the most at risk groups is one weapon in use to improve population diagnosis around the world, and the UAE.

Those who inject drugs using shared needles, or have tattoos and piercings in unsterile environments are putting themselves in the high risk category of infection.

Whilst getting a tattoo is not legally penalised in the UAE, it is forbidden in Islam by virtue of a Fatwa issued by the Official Fatwa Centre at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, and considered a form of self-injury.

Despite this, an underground industry of illegal tattoo artists in Dubai is thriving, with many operating without rules or regulations and potentially exposing their clients to hepatitis c.

One tattooist in Dubai with a constant stream of clients and a waiting list for those wishing to be inked, said legalising the industry would help make it safer and easier to regulate.

“It would be better to legalise tattooing and get proper training and certification for every tattoo artist to help reduce the risk of infections like hepatitis C,” said the tattooist, who did not want to be named.

“They should undergo a full check and certification for sanitation, like any medical centre, but whilst it is an underground industry in the UAE – this won’t happen.

“Some guys don’t know the first thing about hygiene, sanitation and keeping instruments sterile. They don’t understand cross-contamination, so if the industry was legalized there could be proper checks made to ensure they are operating a safe environment.

“We have proper conduct in our operation. Everything we use is disposable, only the machine and that is regularly cleaned and sterilised between appointments.

“We would welcome full checks and audits as it would help clean up the industry, particularly here in Dubai.”


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A sterilisation machine costs just $600 (Dh2,200), but some tattooists don’t want to pay the money for proper equipment or just don’t understand cross-contamination risks.

People seeking a new tattoo overseas are also being warned to avoid artists without good reputations.

“We know most people are going to India or other countries for tattoos and piercings, and they are carrying an extra risk of contracting hepatitis C,” said Dr Maryam Al Khatri, president of the Emirates Gastroenterology and Hepatology Society.

“They often have no idea of the background of the tattooist or if the area is clean or not. They are taking the same risk as a drug addict who is injecting.

“Some people will go to the same tattooist because they are a friend and may have been going there for a long time. It is the responsibility of the municipality to check on these places in the UAE.”

Updated: March 21, 2018 07:20 PM