Albuquerque Spa HIV Scare Sparks Concern over Needle-Based Cosmetic Treatments


The glitz and glamour of cosmetic treatments took a gritty turn in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a serious health scandal surfacing around a local, unlicensed medical spa. Three women, patrons of the spa, found themselves thrust into a dreadful spiral of suffering and anxiety when they were diagnosed with HIV after undergoing cosmetic procedures known as ‘vampire facials’. These cases have the dubious honor of being the first documented instances where HIV has been contracted via a cosmetic procedure that uses needles, according to federal health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in their Morbidity and Mortality Report released last week, delved into the details of an investigation on this spa. Spanning five years from 2018 through 2023, the probe unearthed the shocking reality that the clinic was perhaps guilty of reusing disposable equipment that should have been discarded after a single use.

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For years, experts have warned about the risk of HIV transmission from contaminated blood through non-sterile injections. This chilling scenario, however, marks the inaugural documentation of likely infections associated with cosmetic services, even though common cosmetic treatments such as Botox, fillers, and “vampire facials” necessitate the use of needles.

A ‘vampire facial’, technically referred to as a platelet-rich plasma microneedling procedure, is a process where a client’s own blood is drawn out, its components are separated, and then plasma is re-injected into the face with tiny needles to invigorate and rejuvenate the skin. Similarly, tattooing also involves the use of needles.

The New Mexico Department of Health swung into action, launching an investigation into the spa in the summer of 2018. They were alerted when a woman in her 40s, with no known risk factors for HIV, tested positive for the virus. On tracing her steps back, it was revealed that she had been exposed to needles during a procedure at the clinic earlier in the spring.

The medical spa fell under a dark cloud of controversy and scandal, forcing its doors to shutter in the Autumn of 2018 following the launch of the investigation. In an ensuing legal battle, the owner of the spa was brought to justice for practicing medicine sans a license.

This harrowing case highlights the need for stringent adherence to infection control practices at businesses offering cosmetic procedures that involve needles, notes the report. Further, the investigation was impeded by the poor record-keeping practices at the spa. In light of this, the report emphasizes the need for businesses offering such services to maintain comprehensive records, crucial in case clients need to be contacted at a later date. This serves as a stark reminder of the grave risks lurking underneath the promise of beauty and youth, urging for better vigilance and stricter regulatory oversight.