[Question #5995] Salon Questions - HIV

19 months ago

Last week I went to have a little spa day. Unfortunately I went to get a manicure where I know that the woman did not clean the tools. I asked before she said yes they were clean. But after I was done I saw her use the same ones on me on the next person with just wiping them off! so her version of clean is just wiping with a tissue. She cut my cuticle and I got a small cut there which makes me nervous. Gross.

The second issue comes from my facial. At a different salon- I got microdermabrasion which to my knowledge is tiny crystals in this machine exfoliate your back and vacuumed out somehow . But since that machine is used on others is it possible that i can get an infection from the tiny tiny cuts it makes? 

Let me know if I’m either of these scenarios I need to get tested.  My plan is to get a RNA or PCR test next week if I need to so I don’t need to wait 3 months of being nervous about it. that is accurate at 12 days right?
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
19 months ago
Welcome to our Forum and thanks for your question.  I'll do my best to answer.  Before I get to the specific situations you ask about, let me start by saying that in either of the situations you describe there is little risk that the person who was cared for before you had HIV- the infection is rare here in the U.S. with rates far below 1 in 100 in the general population.  

Then, with respect to your manicure, as I see your question it really can be re-phrased as, is reuse of instruments used for manicure a risk for HIV in the same way that re-use of needles is in terms of risk for HIV transmission?  The answer is no, that it is not.  The issue with needles is that they are hollow and thus blood which might contain the HIV virus can be retained within the lumen of the needle, then transferred to another person when re-used to cause infection.  In contrast, manicure instruments are solid and would not potentially retain blood or secretions within them to go on to cause infection in another person.  The situation you ask about is also analogous to frequent questions we get about potentially used dental tools.  In both cases, the answer is that there is no potential for transfer of infectious material from person to person despite your manicurist's less than optimal cleaning practices.  

I should also add that HIV would not "stick" to the surface of such instruments and even if it did, would virtually immediately become non-infectious upon exposure to air and the environment. 

With respect to the 2nd scenario you describe, I do not know much about the mechanics of dermabrasion but I would be flabbergasted if the crystals were re-used or if there was a risk for infection.  I do know that dermabrasion is a common procedure and have never heard of ANY infections being transmitted through this procedure.  

I hope that this information is helpful to you.  I see no real reason for HIV testing related to the situations you describe.  If you choose to test, my advice would be to wait and get a 4th generation blood test for HIV rather than a PCR test which is both more expensive and perhaps more importantly, has a higher rate of falsely positive test results than the 4th generation tests.  In addition, most experts suggest that when persons are tested with PCR assays for HIV, that the results be confirmed with a 4th generation test at 6 weeks. Thus PCR testing has little to offer to you.