It has been almost six years since a day spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shut down due to the unregulated practice of ‘vampire facials’. Recently, a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed five suspected cases of HIV linked to unsanitary procedures carried out at the spa by an unlicensed operator. This alarming revelation underscores the critical need for rapid contact tracing and the regulation of invasive treatments.

In the summer of 2018, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) launched an investigation into a case where a woman tested positive for HIV after receiving a facial procedure at the unlicensed spa. The woman had no history of drug use, recent sexual contact outside of her relationship, or blood transfusions, pointing to the spa as the source of her infection. The procedure in question, commonly known as a vampire facial, involves extracting platelets from a patient’s blood and reinjecting them into the skin using microneedling techniques. Despite claims of its benefits, there is limited scientific evidence to support the efficacy of this procedure.

By the spring of 2023, the NMDOH had identified four female clients of the spa and one male sexual partner of a woman as HIV-positive, with the earliest case dating back to 2016. Shockingly, one client who had received a vampire facial in 2018 was later hospitalized with an illness linked to AIDS. The investigation exposed a range of unsanitary practices at the spa, including the storage of unlabeled blood tubes and injectables, such as botox, in a kitchen refrigerator alongside food items. Additionally, unwrapped syringes were found scattered across drawers, counters, and regular waste bins, highlighting a lack of proper sterilization procedures at the facility.

In the United States, practitioners are required to hold a medical license to perform procedures involving blood extraction and injection of platelet-rich plasma. However, the spa owner in this case did not possess any of the necessary licenses and failed to maintain proper documentation of client appointments and details. This lack of record-keeping complicates efforts to trace the spread of infections and hinders the identification of all potentially affected clients. As a result, the NMDOH had to test all 198 clients on file for HIV during their investigation.

Following the investigation, spa owner Maria de Lourdes Ramos De Ruiz pleaded guilty to five counts of practicing medicine without a license in 2022. This led to her imprisonment and a mandate to provide restitution to those who were infected as a result of her negligence. The case serves as a stark reminder of the dangers associated with unregulated practices in the beauty and wellness industry, emphasizing the importance of stringent regulations and oversight to protect public health.

The recent HIV cases linked to the unlicensed spa in New Mexico highlight the urgent need for comprehensive regulation and oversight in the beauty and wellness industry. It is crucial for authorities to enforce strict licensing requirements and hygiene standards to prevent similar incidents in the future and safeguard the well-being of clients. The consequences of lax regulations and inadequate practices can have far-reaching implications, underscoring the importance of prioritizing safety and compliance in all healthcare-related services.


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