An Auckland woman's last-minute decision to get a tattoo with her sister has revealed how it changed the course of her life forever.

In 1992, Lyn Parent accompanied her sister to the tattoo parlour to provide moral support. But she paid dearly for the impulsive decision to also get inked by unknowingly contracting HIV.

More than 25 years later, Lyn, 57, spoke to the Daily Mail Australia about what happened to her that day - and how she found out she was HIV positive.

"The supermodels all had tattoos, they were super fashionable and I made a split-second decision that changed my life," Lyn said.


"I remember noticing that a guy before me had had a tattoo and the artist hadn't changed the needles. But I didn't think anything of it. We didn't in those days, I wasn't worried.

"In fact, I told my sister I would go first as I was the eldest. He changed the needle after he inked me."

When she returned to Corsica in France, where she was working as a tour guide, she didn't give her new butterfly tattoo much thought.

But eight weeks later Lyn remembers developing severe flu-like symptoms.

"I had a yellow face, I couldn't eat and I needed to sleep nearly all the time," she said.

"I knew I needed to go to the doctor, and when they told me my temperature was extremely high, I returned home where specialists ran lots of tests to see whether I had malaria."

Ten days later Lyn's doctors still had no idea what was wrong with her.

"I was sleeping for 22 hours a day, so my mother said I had to go back to the hospital," she remembered.

"The specialist said that they had to test me for everything under the sun - including HIV. She told me she'd be back with my results the next day."

That next day, in October 1992, Lyn remembers the events vividly.

"I remember her body language and knowing it was going to be bad," Lyn said.

"When she told me I had HIV and that I had six months to live so I needed to get my bucket list out, I heard nothing except the fact that I had six months left.

"I was in shock. I had no idea why."

Lyn, right, had originally gone with her sister, left, as moral support to the tattoo parlour. Photo / Supplied
Lyn, right, had originally gone with her sister, left, as moral support to the tattoo parlour. Photo / Supplied

Eventually, after doctors ran tests on the three ex-boyfriends Lyn had had since she was 20, one of her specialists pinpointed that her HIV had come from the tattoo.

"I remember being shocked. I had no idea that was possible."

Lyn later visited Australia to say goodbye to friends and family.

Around this time she met her ex-partner on an aeroplane and promptly fell in love.

"I wanted to live each day like it was my last," she said. "We moved to Rotorua, enjoyed a stress-free life - and after a year when I was still here, I relaxed a little."

Lyn had two children, Francois and Amira, who are both healthy.

Since she was diagnosed, the mother of two has worked to educate people around HIV and Aids.

"I've started the fashion event StyleAid to raise money for women and children with HIV.

"Anyone can get HIV and Aids and it's important that precautions are taken. I think the testing should be compulsory, like smear tests."

Lyn has also set up LiveAid Australasia - which sees bands perform in Auckland, alongside a free testing place for all to use.

"The stigma is really bad, but there are so many women with HIV," she said.

To this day, Lyn takes tablets to stay healthy and keep her HIV at bay.

"I have no regrets, it is what it is," she said. "Plus, I think about the good things. Had I not been diagnosed, I wouldn't have done all these things with my life. I share my story with schools and I have an opportunity to spread the word.

"Had this not all happened, my life probably wouldn't have gone this way. It's taught me to grab life as it comes and live in the now rather than 10 years down the track.

"I don't have a fear of death like I used to. I've made peace with myself and I think it's made me even more positive as a person. It's part of who I am."


• In Australia and New Zealand, it is estimated that there are currently around 29,000 people living with HIV.

• Globally, there are some 37 million.

• Today, someone with HIV can continue to live a healthy life.

• HIV is passed from person to person through infected bodily fluids.

• It can be passed through tattoos and piercings, but only if the needle has not been sterilised.