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New HIV/AIDS cases reported in Samoa

Up to tattooists to take precautionary measures, says Ministry of Health

Apia, SAMOA —There have been two new confirmed HIV AIDS cases in Samoa, however one in particular caused the Ministry of Health to call a meeting with Samoa tattoo artists in Samoa on Wednesday (Samoa Time) at the Millennia Hotel, to discuss cautionary measures with them, when they practice their craft.

The HIV/AIDS case causing concern happened when a man got an infection after his tattoo was completed and tested positive for the disease, according to The Health Ministry.

More than 20 tattoo artists attended the meeting and according to Su’a Suluape, a well-known Samoan tattooist, they have agreed — that from now on — they will ask for a medical report from the hospital, before anyone will receive any type of tattoo.

The Ministry of Health’s Chief Executive Officer, Leausa Toleafoa Dr. Take Naseri confirmed the two HIV/AIDS cases to the tattooists during the meeting — one with the man who had a tattoo done, and the other — the person did not get a tattoo or have a tattoo.

Leausa assured that the new HIV/AIDS case did not happen because the tattooist was infected. He said, “We are looking if he (the infected man) got this virus before he got the tattoo. But we are also looking at another case of a person who didn't have a tattoo, and we have two new cases confirmed through blood tests.”

The Health Ministry is concerned about the tattooists who are exposed (to blood) as well as the people getting tattooed.

“We have to act in a timely manner to remind them (tattooists) and review the process and help prevent not only the tattooist, the helpers but also people who want to come down here to get a tattoo — especially the full traditional tattoo (soga’imiti)” — from getting infected, Leausa told the media following the meeting.

“It was always said that these are the things that we have to cover… We are talking prevention and it just so happened that this occurred, and yet we have been planning the process,” he said.

At the meeting, MOH and the tattoo artists dialogued on ways to prevent this type of situation.

Leausa said that the tattoo artists have to protect themselves as well, as some people appear to be strong, yet they are carrying this deadly virus.

“So it’s up to them (the tattoo artists), they have to make sure they understand the risk they are taking so when the tourists come and they don't know their status, then it’s their own choice to take the risk.

“If there were also bookings online if they set their own standards, depending on the size of the tattoo, then I would require a blood test and clearance from where ever you are coming from, the Health director said.

“If the tattooist is also not confident, he can request us to order a blood test. These are the things we want to make sure that we have an open dialogue on, and also to make sure that there is a deterrent from us also.”

Leausu said the number of people getting tattoos has increased significantly and this is why it’s important for the MOH to step in and assure that not only the artists are safe but also, the helpers and the person getting the tattoo.

Su’a told Samoa News following the meeting that this type of open dialogue between the MOH and the tattoo artists is long overdue, and the incident regarding the ‘infected tattoo’ is an eye opener for all the Samoan artists to adhere to the call by the MOH — to subject every one of their clients to a blood test, to keep everyone safe.

Samoa is recognized worldwide for its traditional tattoo (tatau), the Health Ministry said, and “therefore preventive measures should be taken,” especially as diseases such HIV/AIDS and hepatitis can be transmitted though the blood.