‘Vampire Facial’ Treatment Results in HIV

Med Spa Bed
Med Spa Bed | Image by Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

A spa in New Mexico that closed its doors in 2018 after failing a health inspection is suspected of causing several of its clients to contract HIV.

Several women who visited the spa have tested positive for the virus that leads to AIDS, an often fatal illness. Four women and the long-time male partner of one of the females have since been diagnosed with the disease after undergoing a microneedling procedure known as a “vampire facial.”

The procedure involves drawing a person’s blood, which is then separated into its components — plasma and blood cells. A technician injects the “platelet-rich plasma” into the client’s facial tissue. The goal of the treatment, which is not scientifically proven, is to slow the effects of aging, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The four women, in their 40s and 50s, had no previous risk factors for contracting HIV. One woman was detected while traveling abroad. Most of the women were unaware of their infections until developing advanced symptoms.

Researchers with the CDC believe the most likely cause of the cluster of cases was improperly sterilized equipment used by the spa. The couple who developed the disease may have already been infected when the female underwent treatment due to the advanced stage of the disease, researchers stated, per U.S. News & World Report.

The VIP Beauty Salon and Spa, formerly located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was found to have numerous health and hygiene failures in 2018. Among the issues, investigators found a centrifuge and a rack of unlabeled tubes of blood on a kitchen counter, unlabeled tubes of botox and blood stored in a household refrigerator alongside food, and unwrapped syringes lying on counters and drawers. The spa did not have an autoclave, which is used to sterilize medical equipment.

“Requiring adequate infection control practices at spa facilities offering cosmetic injection services can help prevent the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne pathogens,” CDC’s Anna Stadelman-Behar and colleagues concluded, reported U.S. News & World Report.

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported that more than 100 former VIP Beauty Salon and Spa clients had been tested since state inspectors identified the poor hygienic conditions, per NM Health. The spa’s owner pled guilty to five felony counts in June 2022 for performing medical procedures without a license.

NMDOH states that anyone who received treatment at the spa should get screened for possible infections, including HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. The South Valley Public Health office in Albuquerque is providing free testing and counseling services for former spa clients.

“It’s very important that we spread the word and remind people who received any kind of injection-related … services provided at the VIP Spa to come in for free and confidential testing,” said Dr. Laura Parajon, deputy secretary for NMDOH, per NM Health.

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