After discovering that two people contracted HIV from ‘vampire facials’ at an Albuquerque spa, the New Mexico Department of Health is urging all clients who got injection services at the now-shuttered facility to get tested.
Last year, an inspection of VIP Spa revealed the staff was using its needles improperly, and the shop was closed down.
Since its September 2018 closure, over 100 clients have been tested and two have been diagnosed with HIV, suggesting they may have been infected at the spa.
It is unclear when VIP Spa opened, but KOB 4 reported that the spa’s license expired in 2013.
Health officials are offering free HIV testing at two locations for anyone who visited the unsanitary spa.
Two former clients of the now-shuttered VIP Spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico have tested positive for the same strain of HIV after having vampire facials there. Health officials are urging all clients that had needle services to get tested
Although HIV is often sexually transmitted, it can also be contracted through needle sharing and is thus common among injection drug users.
But a pair of unlucky spa visitors in Albuquerque didn’t even realize the needles poked into their faces by technicians at VIP Spa were unclean.
Last year, New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) officials discovered during an inspection that VIP’s practices had the potential to expose clients to ‘bloodborne illnesses.’
At the time, it announced simply that one client had developed some kind of infection, which they might have contracted from a vampire facial at the spa.
Health officials advised anyone who had visited – especially those who had had an ‘injection related service, including a vampire facial’ – to get tested, specifically, for hepatitis B and C and HIV.
It was an alarming message to receive about a seemingly inocuous activity, but it cast an even more terrifying light over the already-spooky facial method.
Minimally invasive cosmetic procedures are in vogue and on the rise in the US (thanks in part to Kim Kardashian West, who popularized the vampire facial, among other augmentations).
In 2017, 15.7 million such minor procedures were done in the US, and the top two – Botox injections and soft tissue fillers – involve needles.
Vampire facials gained popularity after Kim Kardashian West got one in 2017
Vampire facials are done by extracting blood from a person’s body, supercharging the growth factor and cell renewal portion of it in a centrifuge, the injecting the blood back into the face where it should encourage cell turnover.
They’re by no means the most common or, broadly speaking, the most dangerous cosmetic procedure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks.
The procedure itself is fairly safe, but unsanitary practices are not.
Any time the skin is being broken, the risk of infection goes up, and when needles get involved, the risk is increased further, if the clinician’s practices are not sterile.
Now, seven months after the first VIP Spa client tested positive for HIV, another out of 100 tested in total has been diagnosed with the infection, too.
Both clients contracted the same strain, pointing even more sharply at VIP as the probable source.
Even if needles are cleaned, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can all be transmitted through needle sharing because infected blood cells far too small to see can remain, and end up injected directly into the blood stream of another person.
After the discovery of the second infected client of VIP, the NMDOH is reiterating its warning that all of the spa’s clients need to be tested before they unwittingly spread the virus
Medical advancements mean HIV viral loads can now be kept at an untransmissible level, this required medication.
And if an infection is left undetected and treating, the disease can not only spread but weaken the immune system, leaving positive people vulnerable to opportunistic infections that may overwhelm their suppressed defenses.