Three women tested positive for HIV after receiving vampire facials at an unlicensed New Mexico spa, marking the first documented cases of people contracting the virus through a cosmetic procedure involving needles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

An investigation began in 2018 after a woman in her 40s, with no traditional risk factors such as drug injection or blood transfusions got diagnosed with HIV. However, she had undergone a cosmetic procedure called a vampire facial or platelet-rich plasma micro-needling facial at an unlicensed New Mexico spa.

Vampire facial involves drawing a client's blood, separating its components, and then injecting plasma into the face using microneedles. It is purported to enhance skin appearance by reducing wrinkles and acne scars through the stimulation of new skin cells and collagen production by platelet-rich plasma. It is considered to be a cost-effective and minimally invasive alternative to surgical facelifts.

The investigation revealed that the micro needing equipment intended for one-time use was reused at VIP Spa in Albuquerque, and two other women who took the procedure at the facility also contracted HIV from exposure.

The health officials shut down the spa, and an inspection revealed numerous unsafe infection control practices. The spa owner is currently serving a prison sentence for practicing medicine without a license.

Although HIV transmission from contaminated blood through unsterile injection is a well-known risk, the cluster marks the first known case of transmission during a cosmetic injection procedure.

Meanwhile, experts say the procedure is low risk and the cases represent an anomaly. People undergoing these procedures can keep themselves safe by verifying that the establishment is licensed and making sure needles and other single-use supplies are being taken directly from their original packaging, Anna Stadelman-Behar, a CDC epidemiologist who investigated the case told Washington Post.

"This investigation underscores the importance of determining possible novel sources of HIV transmission among persons with no known HIV risk factors. Requiring adequate infection control practices at spa facilities offering cosmetic injection services can help prevent the transmission of HIV and other bloodborne pathogens," the CDC news release stated.