Tattooing is the practice of marking the skin by painting henna on for a semi-permanent result or depositing ink into the middle layer of skin which once healed will be protected by the external skin and will be visible to all. Tattooing is one of the oldest forms of body decoration and the practice has been utilised for a variety of reasons - protection, faith, ceremonial, shame, maturity, belongingness to a group and attraction are all ways tattoos have been employed.

People have used sharp objects to deposit pigment under the skin for thousands of years. Tattoos can be found on mummified Egyptian pharaohs, Oetzi the 5,000 year old caveman, native peoples, especially Polynesia, which is where the word tattoo originates. European sailors who have seen these tattoos spread awareness of tats, a link that lives on to this day. Tats are associated with groups perceived as dangerous and have become symbols of masculinity, rebellion and rejection of conventional values. Tattoos signify the 'bad boy' image for many. More recently, some POZ (HIV+) men adopted an 'in your face' attitude to having HIV by displaying bio hazard symbols to signal their HIV status.

Tattoos are a very attractive decoration they can be traditional or due to sophisticated techniques an art form. Tattoos and their owners can attract respect, attention and fascination by emphasising on sexual appeal by drawing attention to body curves or muscles and making the owner feel sexy. Tattoos can be sexually explicit and individuals stated that one can get addicted to being inked to the point only small spots of skin are blank.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body; its function is to protect us from the environment by keeping out pathogens. If broken skin and non-sterile equipment or unhygienic practices come in contact, there is a high risk for transmission of blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

In Victoria, it is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18. It is possible to get and pass on HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C as well as other bacterial infections while getting a tattoo through contaminated equipment, unclean premises and unsafe practices. It is highly recommended to use only registered certified tattooists to be sure they comply with current best practices guidelines.

Remember a tattoo, except for temporary ones, is usually a permanent form of body art so it is important to take some time to think about what you are having done. It is very expensive and time consuming to remove an unwanted tattoo with laser or by removing the inked skin surgically and it is not 100% effective.

For more information on tattoos visit your local registered tattoo artists and ask questions you will find them very helpful and collaborative.