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Finding the perfect tattoo artist for poz people

Debunking perceptions that inking is off limits

Tiffanie Francoeur

Finding the perfect tattoo artist can be time consuming and angst provoking — particularly if you happen to be HIV-positive. Many tattoo shops in Ottawa are not happy to accept poz people as body canvasses.

Tiffanie Francoeur, a tattoo designer at Wicked Wanda’s, is a tattoo artist who is happy to apply ink to anyone’s body — as long as they talk to her about their status.

“Once you are well prepared and know how to deal with it, it’s not a problem anymore,” says Francoeur.

Francoeur designed the poster for the Magnet Party on June 23 that is sponsored by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) and co-sponsored by Wicked Wanda’s. The theme for the party is tattoos and was inspired by the concerns raised by poz people that they could not receive tattoos.

Xtra talked up with Francoeur at Wicked Wanda’s.

Xtra: If you are HIV-positive and want a tattoo, is there a protocol to follow?

TF: Personally, l prefer to be told because there are extra precautions to be taken in that scenario. When people are honest with me, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable. Once it is said, I do not tell anyone else — it’s my secret.

Xtra: What precautions do you take as a tattoo artist?

TF: I usually wear two pairs of gloves. Usually you always bag (cover with plastic) your machines, but when I am tattooing someone with a blood-borne pathogen disease, I put elastic around the bottom so there is no contact between the machine and blood. You double bleach before and after and make sure there is no splattering — that’s another thing that happens when you are tattooing —sometimes blood splatters and you clean it up after, but if a person has HIV, you put the machine down so the blood does not splatter as much. It makes the tattoo take longer, but it’s better.

Xtra: Are there any other precautions?

TF: I use disposable tattoo grips, which I throw away at the end of the day — most people use metal grips. Grips are the part you hold; the ink goes in it so blood goes in there as well. People who use metal have an intense sterilization process. The thing is, if I had HIV, I wouldn’t want people to use the metal on me because if it is badly cleaned, there could be an infection. Legally, here in Ottawa we have to put bags over our machines and on the green soap bottles (that washes off the excess ink) — some people do not use them, and if I had HIV I would want to make sure they did.

Xtra: I know that you recently tattooed a client who was HIV-positive — did he disclose immediately?

Not immediately. First we had a discussion about HIV people being tattooed, and that’s when I told him about this guy with hep C — one of my best clients — who told me about his status, and because he told me about it I respect that. He also told me that about 50 percent of the tattoo shops refuse to tattoo HIV people, but I really feel that tattoo shops should be more informed — just knowing about something makes you less fearful.

Xtra: If you are HIV-positive, are there more risks involved with getting tattoos?

No, it’s pretty much the same as with everyone else. Of course, I would say check with your doctor. I tell everyone, even if you have diabetes, just to check with your doctor.

Tiffanie Francoeur can be reached at Wicked Wanda’s, 382 Bank St, 613-820-6032.