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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
AUSTRALIA: Online Tattoo and Piercing Kits Could Be Spreading Hepatitis C
Tory Shepherd
January 22, 2013 (01.17.13)

Hepatitis Australia warned that people using tattooing and piercing kits purchased online could be unknowingly spreading the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Stuart Loveday, president of Hepatitis Australia, explained that the disease is transmitted when people share equipment to inject illicit drugs, but that the association does not have data on those who were infected in other ways. Loveday noted that tattooing and body piercing are very popular, and that people are participating in tattooing and body piercing parties with kits purchased online for $100 or less. Many of these kits are advertised as being suitable for beginners. The problem is that the persons using these kits do not have the knowledge or equipment to properly sterilize the instruments. Loveday warned that HCV is 10 times more infectious than HIV, and that early detection is difficult because there may be no obvious signs or symptoms. He explained that the disease causes liver damage and can cause liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Loveday said that new treatments provided a good chance of a cure and that the association hoped that these treatments would be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (a government program that provides subsidized prescription drugs) to make the treatments more accessible. Jack Wallace of La Trobe University added that because of stigma, people did not want to admit that they had HCV infection or get tested or treated. He said that more than 225,000 Australians are estimated to be infected with HCV.