What do dentists say? – patients contract HIV after receiving ‘vampire facials’

Patients contract HIV after receiving 'vampire facials'

Dentists with a special interest in facial aesthetics have spoken out following the news that multiple patients contracted HIV after ‘vampire facial’ treatments.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that at least three women contracted HIV after receiving ‘vampire facials’ at a spa in New Mexico. Vampire facials, also known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, increased in popularity after Kim Kardashian revealed that she had undergone the treatment. The process involves drawing the patient’s blood, withdrawing plasma in a centrifuge and injecting it into their face.

In 2018, the CDC became aware of a woman who had tested positive for HIV despite no intravenous drug use, blood transfusions or sexual contact with an infected person. Her only needle usage was a PRP treatment at the New Mexico spa. This prompted a CDC investigation which revealed the spa was unlicensed and used ‘multiple unsafe infection control practices’.

Hazards in the spa included ‘unlabelled tubes of blood and medical injectables’ stored in a fridge alongside food and ‘unwrapped syringes’ throughout the premises. No autoclave was found at the site and disposable equipment was being cleaned with alcohol and reused.

With facial aesthetics becoming an increasingly popular offering in dental practices, we heard from two dentists with expertise in aesthetics about this case.

Sally Rayment, prosthodontist and owner of facial aesthetics clinic

While this story is utterly horrifying, I would not expect any registered medical professional (doctor, dentist or registered general nurse) carrying out aesthetic treatments in the UK to practice in this manner.

The field of aesthetics in the UK is largely unregulated, however the registered individuals carrying out the procedures are highly trained in and skilled with cross-infection control protocols. 

As clinicians with medical backgrounds, we are, of course, comfortable talking to our patients about our procedures and protocols, and can allay their fears and concerns over any cross-infection risk, or use of any sub-standard products.

What this story does highlight is any potential risk patients put themselves under when seeking treatments with non-medical aesthetic practitioners who have not received training in cross-infection control, and who cannot obtain products from the regulated pharmacies that we can.

It is our role to help educate the public of the importance of ensuring that their practitioner is appropriately trained before going ahead with any aesthetic procedure.

Alaa Ati, dentist with special interest in facial aesthetics

This investigation found that three women contracted HIV after receiving vampire facials in an unregulated clinic in New Mexico, US. Without a doubt, this highlights the importance of robust regulation within this industry.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of seeing a regulated medical professional who is adequately trained when considering such treatments. This ensures that the treating clinician is qualified to undertake the specific treatment and is insured and licensed. This will also mean that the treatment is carried out safely and ethically, and cross-infection protocols are adhered to. They will also be trained to support and manage the patient should a complication take place.

In the case of the investigation above, the report showed that this unregulated clinic was not storing blood vials safely or labelling them correctly as well as re-using blood vials between different patients.

Any treatment can be deemed unsafe if it is administered by someone who is is not trained and licensed in an unregulated setting. PRP injections (also known as the vampire facial) is considered to be an effective and safe treatment to help manage various skin concerns. However, the key is to ensure that these treatments are only undertaken by qualified and licensed medical professionals in a regulated clinic such as CQC (care quality commission) regulated practices.

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