Unregulated Spa Procedures Result in HIV Cases: The Importance of Regulation and Oversight

It has been over half a decade since a day spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shut down due to the unauthorized practice of ‘vampire facials’. Recently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report outlining five suspected cases of HIV linked to unsanitary procedures performed at the spa by an unlicensed operator. This revelation underscores the critical need for swift contact tracing and strict regulation of invasive treatments.

In the summer of 2018, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) launched an inquiry following a report of a woman who tested positive for HIV after undergoing a facial procedure at the unlicensed spa. This woman had no history of drug use, recent sexual partners outside her relationship, or blood transfusions, indicating that the infection was likely linked to the spa’s practices.

The infamous ‘vampire facial’ involves drawing a patient’s blood, separating the platelets, and injecting them back into the skin using microneedling. Proponents claim that this procedure can aid in healing, reduce wrinkles, scars, and other signs of aging. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these alleged benefits.

The investigation revealed shocking practices at the spa, including storing unlabeled tubes of blood and injectables next to food in a kitchen refrigerator, as well as leaving unwrapped syringes in various locations throughout the premises. Additionally, the lack of a regulated steam-based sterilization system further exacerbated the risk of infections.

In the United States, practitioners must hold a medical license to perform procedures involving the drawing and separation of blood. In this case, the spa owner lacked the necessary licenses and failed to maintain proper client records. This not only hindered efforts to track the spread of infections but also made it nearly impossible to determine the full extent of the damage.

The NMDOH took the drastic step of testing all 198 clients on record for HIV during their investigation to contain the potential spread of the virus. The lack of proper record-keeping and oversight highlighted the urgent need for stricter regulations in the cosmetic industry.

The owner of the spa, Maria de Lourdes Ramos De Ruiz, pleaded guilty to five charges of practicing medicine without a license in 2022. As a result, she received a jail sentence and was ordered to compensate those impacted by her negligence.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by unregulated cosmetic procedures and the critical importance of stringent oversight in the industry. As consumers, it is essential to research and choose licensed practitioners to ensure our safety and well-being. Authorities must also step up efforts to enforce existing regulations and hold accountable those who endanger public health through negligence and malpractice.


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