3 women contracted HIV after getting 'vampire facials' at an unlicensed medical spa, federal authorities say

3 women contracted HIV after getting 'vampire facials' at an unlicensed medical spa, federal authorities say
  • Three women contracted HIV after getting "vampire facial" procedures at an unlicensed medical spa.

  • The CDC said these were the first known cases of people getting the virus this way.

  • An investigation found that the spa in New Mexico reused disposable electric desiccator tips.

Three women contracted HIV after getting "vampire facial" procedures at an unlicensed medical spa in New Mexico, according to federal authorities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released last week, that the three patients were the first documented cases of people contracting the virus through cosmetic injection services.

The CDC said it started an investigation in 2018 after the New Mexico Department of Health found a positive HIV test from a woman in her 40s.

At the time, the patient reported no injection drug use, recent blood transfusions, or recent sexual contact with anyone other than her current sexual partner, per the National Public Health Agency.

However, she did report exposure to needles during a micro-needling procedure at a spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, per the CDC.

The procedure, aimed at making the skin look smoother, tighter, and fuller, involves collecting blood from a patient, separating the plasma and platelets, and re-injecting the mixture into the skin.

This involves many small punctures across the forehead and cheeks, or injecting the blood into the skin like filler, a procedure known as a "vampire facelift."

Facials of this kind are popular among celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Bar Refaeli, and cost about $1,000.

The investigation found that four clients of the spa and one sexual partner of a spa client were diagnosed with "highly" similar HIV strains between 2018 and 2023.

VIP Spa was shut down in September 2018, and the spa's owner, Maria Ramos de Ruiz, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in June 2022, as BI previously reported.

Cosmetic surgery in the US is a $24.3 billion-a-year industry, and demand is growing. Surgical procedures increased by almost 20 percent between 2019 and 2022, with the top five procedures in 2022 including liposuction, breast augmentation, tummy tuck, breast lift, and eyelid surgery, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

But some people look for cheaper routes to get treatment, like going to Brazil for butt lifts, sometimes with disastrous effects.

In their investigation, the CDC and NMDOH found that the establishment in New Mexico engaged in many unsafe practices, including storing unlabeled tubes of blood and medical injectables, keeping unwrapped syringes in drawers and on counters, and reusing disposable electric desiccator tips.

The procedure is considered safe when clean, sterile needles are used, and proper safety precautions are taken.

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