A LEADING charity has called on councils to revoke the licences of tattoo studios that discriminate against people who are living with HIV.

Nathan Sparling, chief executive of HIV Scotland, said action is necessary after his organisation was approached by men and women who were turned away after disclosing their status.

In one case, a tattoo parlour refused to serve an individual and tried to hold on to a deposit after turning him away.

Under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, a licence is required for activities such as acupuncture, electrolysis, cosmetic body piercing and tattooing.

It emerged last year that some tattoo parlours in the north-west of England had refused to provide their services to people with HIV.

A campaign by the George House Trust resulted in local authorities across Greater Manchester reminding operators that the Equality Act 2010 gave protection to any person with HIV under the category of disability.

The move led to HIV Scotland being contacted by people who had suffered a similar experience north of the Border.

One man told the charity about what happened when he tried to get a tattoo in Glasgow: “I was filling out the form and wrote that I was HIV-positive under health conditions, and the tattooist refused point blank to do it.

“It was annoying because I chose to disclose, and I was being discriminated against for being honest. The fact that they should already be taking care of infection control, means there’s no danger of passing it on. A little education wouldn’t go amiss.”

Another individual spoke of trying to get a tattoo in Clydebank: “When I went for the appointment I filled out a questionnaire, and because I disclosed my status they refused me on ‘safety’ grounds. I was, and still am, undetectable and cannot pass it on. I advised them of this, and also of the legal ramifications, but still they refused and also tried to keep my deposit, stating that I should have informed them before.”

A woman living with HIV said: “I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but I’m always nervous of disclosing my status and being turned away. I’ve seen stories in the past of tattoo studios discriminating against people living with HIV and I don’t want to go through that. I’d just really rather not take that risk.

“If there was a legal guarantee that tattoo studios wouldn’t be able to get away with this then I’d reconsider, but for now I’d rather avoid the chance of being subject to this prejudice.”

In a letter to council leaders, Mr Sparling wrote:

“From a scientific point of view, all tattoo studios should be following standard infection control procedures which, if followed properly, would entirely negate the risk of HIV transmission. Although HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of needles, there have been zero documented cases in Scotland of HIV being transmitted due to tattooing.”

He added: “Further to this, refusal to provide a service based on someone’s HIV status contravenes the Equality Act 2010, and it’s undeniable that the three examples we’ve outlined are human rights issues. We want a future where nobody in Scotland faces this level of blatant discrimination, and you can help us take steps toward making that vision a reality.”

Mr Sparling, who was appointed chief executive last year, continued:

“As the Leader of a Council that issues licences to all tattoo parlours across your local authority, the buck stops with you. It is your duty and the duty of your council to ensure that the practices undertaken by tattoo studios in your area are ethical, legal, and safe.”

He called on the leaders to write to all tattoo studios to warn that discrimination based on HIV status will not be tolerated.

He also urged the figureheads to review licences and insert a clause that allows for the revocation or review of a licence if the Equality Act is contravened.

A spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which represents councils, declined to comment.