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Feds Link 3 HIV Cases to 'Vampire Facials' at Unsanitary Spa

'It was clear that needles were being reused, and also clear that blood specimens were being reused'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2024 11:18 AM CDT
Feds Link 'Vampire Facials' to at Least 3 HIV Cases
Investigators say there were signs the spa had been reusing equipment that was supposed to be single-use.   (Getty Images/cerro_photography)

A "vampire facial" is a cosmetic procedure that involves drawing a person's blood and injecting it into their face through microneedles, and while it's considered safe when done properly, it's a different story when the procedure is performed in an unsanitary and disorganized environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least three cases of HIV have been linked to an unlicensed spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that shut down after the first infection was reported in 2018. In a report Thursday, the CDC said they were the first documented cases of HIV transmission thought to be caused by "cosmetic injection services via contaminated blood."

Investigators tried to track down the spa's clients—not an easy task, since the spa didn't keep client records—and identified 59 clients at risk, 20 who had received vampire facials and 39 who had been given Botox or other injections, reports the New York Times. They identified five HIV cases linked to the spa but two of them, a female client and her male partner, were likely infected before the woman visited the spa. One client wasn't diagnosed until she was hospitalized last spring with a disease associated with AIDS. CDC epidemiologist Anna Stadelman-Behar, the report's lead author, says the three women infected at the spa had no other risk factors and were shocked by the diagnosis, the Washington Post reports.

Stadelman-Behar tells the Times that the spa failed to follow infection control procedures. "When we did the inspection at the spa, it was clear that needles were being reused, and also clear that blood specimens were being reused," she says. "We found vials with no label, no date of birth, no date of collection, that had been punctured multiple times." She says the "biggest takeaway" from the report is that people seeking cosmetic procedures that require injections should make sure their provider is licensed. Former spa owner Maria Ramos De Ruiz is serving a 3.5-year sentence for practicing medicine without a license, KOB reports. (More HIV stories.)

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