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‘Vampire Facials’ at Unlicensed New Mexico Spa Led Three Women to HIV Infection

‘Vampire Facials’ at Unlicensed New Mexico Spa Led Three Women to HIV Infection

Three women were diagnosed with HIV after undergoing “vampire facial” procedures at an unlicensed New Mexico medical spa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report last week, marking the first documented cases of people contracting the virus through cosmetic services using needles. .

Federal health officials said in a new report that a 2018 to 2023 investigation into the Albuquerque clinic, VIP Spa, found that it apparently reused disposable equipment intended for single use, transmitting the HIV to customers through its services via contaminated blood.

WHAT IS A VAMPIRE FACIAL? IS IT SAFE?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, vampire facials, formerly known as platelet-rich plasma microneedling facials, are cosmetic procedures intended to rejuvenate the skin, making it look younger and reducing scarring and acne wrinkles.

After a client’s blood is drawn, a machine separates the blood into platelets and cells.

The plasma is then injected into the client’s face, either using sterile single-use or multiple-use needles.

Vampire facials have grown in popularity in recent years as celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have announced they received the procedure.

HIV transmission through unsterile injection is a known risk linked to beauty care and other services, officials say.

Despite this, the Academy says vampire facials are generally safe.

Health officials say spa establishments offering cosmetic injection services should exercise appropriate infection control and maintain records on their guests to help prevent the transmission of blood-borne pathogens, such as HIV.

HOW WERE HIV CASES LINKED TO SPA?

The New Mexico Department of Health was notified in the summer of 2018 that a woman with no known risk factors for HIV was diagnosed with HIV infection after receiving vampire facial services spa that spring.

Four women – former spa clients – and one man – the sexual partner of one of the spa clients but who did not himself receive services at the spa – were diagnosed with HIV infection there between 2018 and 2023. The analysis showed similar HIV strains among all cases, according to last week’s CDC report.

The HIV diagnoses in two of these patients “were likely attributed to exposures prior to receiving cosmetic injection services,” according to the CDC.

Evidence suggests that contamination from spa services resulted in positive HIV infection tests for the other three patients.

Health officials found materials containing blood on a kitchen counter, unlabeled tubes of blood and injectables in the refrigerator, and unpackaged food and syringes that had not been properly disposed of. The CDC report said no steam sterilizer, known as an autoclave, needed to clean reused equipment, was found in the spa.

ARE THERE OTHER PATIENTS AT RISK?

Through the New Mexico Department of Health’s investigation, nearly 200 former spa patrons and their sexual partners were tested for HIV, and no other infections were found.

According to the CDC, free testing remains available for those who previously attended the spa.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SPA OWNER?

Former VIP Spa owner Maria de Lourdes Ramos de Ruiz pleaded guilty in 2022 to five counts of practicing medicine without a license, including performing vampire facials without a license.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office said Ramos de Ruiz also performed illegal plasma and Botox injection procedures.

According to prosecutors, inspections by the state Health and Regulatory and Licensing Departments found code violations, and the spa closed in fall 2018 after the investigation was launched.

Ramos de Ruiz was sentenced to 7 1/2 years, with four years suspended on supervised probation, 3 1/2 years in prison and parole, according to court documents.

Raul A. Lopez, attorney for Ramos de Ruiz, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Alexa St. John is a climate solutions reporter for the Associated Press. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @alexa_stjohn. Contact her at ast.john@ap.org.

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