3 women diagnosed with HIV after receiving vampire facial treatment

Taking care of one’s skin requires more than topical treatments. Picture: Sora Shimazak/Pexels

Taking care of one’s skin requires more than topical treatments. Picture: Sora Shimazak/Pexels

Published May 2, 2024


Three women had been diagnosed with HIV after getting “vampire facial” procedures at an unlicensed New Mexico medical spa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report last week, marking the first documented cases of people contracting the virus through cosmetic services using needles.

In the report, health officials disclosed that a probe into VIP Spa in Albuquerque from 2018 to 2023, had exposed some alarming practices.

The spa is accused of reusing disposable items meant to be used just once, which has led to clients contracting HIV through treatments that involved contaminated blood, according to “The New York Times”.

The investigation linked five individuals who all had nearly identical HIV strains. Four of them had received a skin treatment, known as platelet-rich plasma microneedling, at the spa.

The fifth person, a man, was romantically involved with one of the female clients. The exact cause of the contamination remains a mystery to the investigators.

A screenshot of Kim Kardashian’s vampire facial captured by Glamour magazine.

The investigation initially started when a woman in her forties, who had no known risks for HIV, such as drug use, blood transfusions or unprotected sex with an infected partner, was diagnosed with the virus in the summer of 2018.

The diagnosis came after she had received a cosmetic procedure involving needle use, specifically a platelet-rich plasma microneedling facial, at VIP Spa, as reported by “The Independent”.

During an inspection at the spa, shocking conditions were uncovered, including tubes of blood without labels left on a kitchen counter, and some of them were kept in a fridge next to food, and used syringes found in drawers and trash cans.

The investigation also found that the spa was using disposable equipment, which should be thrown away after one use, multiple times.

The report follows recent warnings about illnesses linked to fake Botox treatments that had dangerously high levels of botulinum toxin, according to “The New York Times”.

Vampire facials are a trendy cosmetic procedure that involves taking a client’s blood, spinning it in a machine to extract platelet-rich plasma and then using tiny needles to inject it back into the face.

The process is believed to help the skin generate new collagen and elastin, leading to younger-looking skin. It aims to reduce ageing signs, scars from acne, and damage from the sun.

The treatment rose to fame when Kim Kardashian shared her experience on social media after getting one, showing her face covered in blood, which she said was part of the process towards achieving a more youthful appearance.

The only difference with a vampire facial is that instead of puncturing your skin with bare needles (like with microneedling), it’s punctured with your own blood platelets.

In 2018, the spa closed soon after a strange infection was found. The investigation into the matter and efforts to warn people who might have been there — that they could be at risk of HIV — ran into problems because the spa’s records were a mess.

However, detectives didn’t give up. They managed to scrape together a list of potentially exposed people by looking at signed consent forms, notes from appointments and phone lists.

They found 59 clients who might have been infected, 20 of whom had had “vampire facials” — a treatment where a person’s own blood is injected into their face.

The rest, 39 people, had different services like Botox injections between the spring and autumn of 2018.

Public health officials didn’t stop there. They made efforts to inform the broader community and locate former clients of the spa to warn them of the risk.

From 2018 to 2023, a total of 198 people, including those who had visited the spa and their sexual partners, were tested for HIV, wrote “The New York Times”.