Authorities are urging guests of a New Mexico spa to get come forward for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C testing after multiple former guests were infected with HIV following procedures including "vampire facials".
The New Mexico Department of Health has been investigating a cluster of HIV cases associated with the VIP Spa in Albuquerque in 2018.
"Despite extensive outreach and testing of over 100 VIP Spa clients during the initial investigation in 2018, a former VIP Spa client recently tested positive for HIV," the department wrote in a press release in late June. "The individual had not previously been tested which raises concerns that there may be others who have not yet been diagnosed."
Since this new case, the department has found further cases and decided to reopen the investigation into the now-closed spa, and cases of infection associated with it. Following the first investigation, the owner of the spa pleaded guilty to five felony counts of practicing medicine without a license.
“It’s very important that we spread the word and remind people who received any kind of injection-related to services provided at the VIP Spa to come in for free and confidential testing,” Dr Laura Parajon, deputy secretary for the department said in a press release.
Vampire facials, sometimes referred to as a "blood facial" or a "vampire facelift", involve taking a person's blood from their arm. This is then separated in a centrifuge (i.e. it is spun around in a sort of medical salad spinner) to get at your platelets, which are then injected into the skin using a syringe or a microneedling device.
Practitioners claim that the procedure can reduce wrinkles and creases, as well as improve your skin and make it appear younger. There is little evidence in favor of the treatment, though a small study did find improvement in patient skin when comparing it to injection of sterile saline in the same patients.
While the process itself isn't especially dangerous, health risks come from how clean those needles are, and how the blood is handled.
"It’s essential that the blood removed from your body be kept sterile. Otherwise, you could develop an infection," the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) writes on their website.
"For your safety, the facility should also follow the same process that transfusion centers use to make sure that your own blood is injected back into you. If you receive someone else’s blood by mistake, you could become very sick."
Anyone who received injections at the VIP Spa in Albuquerque is urged to attend free testing, the details of which are available on the New Mexico Department of Health website.