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CDC Identifies First Documented Cases of HIV Transmission via Cosmetic Needles

Federal health officials have identified three women who contracted HIV after undergoing “vampire facial” procedures at an unlicensed medical spa in New Mexico, marking the first documented cases of HIV transmission through a cosmetic procedure involving needles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an investigation spanning from 2018 to 2023 revealed that the clinic in question had reused disposable equipment meant for single use.

While HIV transmission through unsterile injection with contaminated blood is a recognized risk, this incident represents the initial documentation of likely infections associated with cosmetic services.

Various popular cosmetic treatments, including Botox for wrinkle reduction and lip fillers, utilize needles. The “vampire facial,” or platelet-rich plasma microneedling procedure, entails drawing the client’s blood, separating its components, and then injecting plasma into the face with tiny needles to enhance skin rejuvenation. Similarly, tattoos also involve the use of needles.

In the summer of 2018, the New Mexico Department of Health initiated an investigation into a spa following reports of a woman in her 40s testing positive for HIV, despite lacking any known risk factors. The woman disclosed exposure to needles during a procedure at the clinic earlier that spring.

Subsequently, the spa ceased operations in the autumn of 2018 as the investigation unfolded, and its proprietor faced legal action for practicing medicine without a license.

The investigation underscored the imperative of implementing infection control measures at establishments offering cosmetic procedures involving needles.

Moreover, it highlighted challenges attributed to inadequate record-keeping, which impeded the investigation’s progress. The report emphasized the necessity for businesses offering such services to maintain comprehensive records, facilitating potential future communication with clients as needed.

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