Tattoo shop owner says he ‘personally’ doesn’t want to serve people with HIV

A tattoo shop owner has defended his decision not to serve a customer with HIV – claiming he is “personally” against doing so because of “the risk”.

People living with HIV who are taking medication cannot pass on the virus and do not pose any risk to others if their viral load is being managed correctly.

However PinkNews reported earlier this week that the Vida Loca studio in Bolton refused to serve a 19-year-old who is living with HIV.

After mentioning his HIV status to the tattooist, George Westwood was told that the shop’s manager would not allow the procedure, and a deposit he had paid was returned to him.

The owner of the tattoo shop, Daniel Weston, defended his actions during an appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire Show this morning (May 31).

HIV-positive gay student George Westwood and tattoo shop owner Daniel Weston (BBC)

The shop owner initially claimed that “the reason he was refused is because he wasn’t covered by our insurance”, and that “the insurer said we’re not insured and they wouldn’t cover it, so they couldn’t do the tattoo”.

However, he went on to suggest that he “personally” would have opposed serving the customer even without the alleged incorrect advice from the insurer.

He said: “My job as the owner is to look after the health and safety before anything, the safety of my staff, the customer and myself.

“My personal opinion is that, even if I was insured, I personally wouldn’t want to do it, because there still is a risk. Why take a chance of a risk, and spreading the virus?

“As a society we’re trying to reduce the risk… there’s always risk. It’s impossible to 100 percent eradicate the risk.

“I’ve been a tattoo artist for 14 years, and over the 14 years I’ve caught myself two or three times with a needle. The chances of me catching myself might be very slim, but you can’t say that.”

Student George Westwood says he was refused tattoo (Credit: George Westwood)

Deborah Gold of the National AIDS Trust underlined that people with undetectable viral loads cannot pass on HIV.

She told the BBC show: “There is no risk. There has never been a case of HIV being passed on through a tattoo parlour.

“The vast majority of people, 94 percent of people who know they have HIV, can’t pass HIV on anyway because their viral load is suppressed. They have an undetectable viral load, they can’t pass it on.”

She noted that people at greatest risk of transmitting HIV are those who do not know they have it, as opposed to those who have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment.

George Westwood was diagnosed in February (Credit: George Westwood)

Gold said: “Any risk that existed would be from people they don’t know they have HIV, which is why all tattoo parlours have universal precautions.

“If this tattoo parlour has good hygiene practises, they’re using gloves, they are using single-use needles and sterilising their equipment, then there is no risk.

“This comes down to a case of lack of information and stigma and discrimination. We do hear of these cases every so often from tattoo parlours, but usually when people find out the information they realise they’re wrong and they’re happy to go ahead and resolve it.

“Under the Equality Act 2010, discriminating against someone with HIV is illegal. An insurance company must be following the law, therefore if the insurance company isn’t willing to cover someone, isn’t the insurance company also breaking the law?”

Read the original report here.