3 HIV cases linked to 'vampire facials' at US spa, CDC says

3 HIV cases linked to 'vampire facials' at US spa, CDC says

A spa in the United States was the first to be linked to HIV transmission from cosmetic injections, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report last week.

Three people were found to be contaminated from "an undetermined source at the spa" in New Mexico in 2018, resulting in a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. While it cannot be cured, treatment can bring the virus to undetectable levels, making it a manageable condition.

The cluster at the spa was found after a woman aged 40-50 years old received a positive HIV test overseas without any risk factors for the virus.

She had not injected drugs, had no recent blood transfusions, nor did she have contact with anyone outside her current sexual partner who tested negative for the virus.

The woman reported exposure to needles during a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) microneedling procedure also known as a "vampire facial" at a spa in New Mexico.

The cosmetic procedure includes taking someone's blood and using part of it to re-inject it into the face.

The CDC said that HIV transmission via "unsterile injection practices is a known risk" but transmission through cosmetic injection has not previously been documented.

'Unsafe infection control practices'

The New Mexico Department of Health investigated the spa where the woman received the facial in 2018. The spa closed later that year as the owner did not have appropriate licenses.

Health authorities had identified 59 clients at risk of exposure, including 20 who received a vampire facial and 39 who received other services such as botox. Nearly 200 former clients and their sexual partners were tested between 2018 and 2023.

The CDC report says the New Mexico spa had "multiple unsafe infection control practices," including unlabeled tubes containing blood on a counter.

"Unlabeled tubes of blood and medical injectables (i.e., botox and lidocaine) were stored in the kitchen refrigerator along with food. Unwrapped syringes were found in drawers, on counters, and discarded in regular trash cans," the CDC said.

They added that the spa did not keep full records of clients, which was a problem during the investigation.

"This cluster could potentially include additional persons with undiagnosed HIV infection or with a diagnosis of infection but no available sequence for analysis," the health agency said.

It added that the investigation shows that spa facilities should require "adequate infection control practices" to prevent HIV transmission and other pathogens and keep good records.