STUDY: HIV Diagnosis Traced To Shared Manicure Tools

woman getting manicure

Dealing with a bad rush job or a manicurist that constantly tries to upsell you the brow wax you don’t need are the typical annoyances that can happen during a mani or pedi, but for one Brazilian woman, her manicure came back to haunt her 10 years later with an unbelievable diagnosis: HIV.

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The authors of a study recently published in AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses shared the story of the 22-year-old Brazilian woman who had advanced HIV infection, but no apparent symptoms or risk factors such as unprotected sex or drug use for acquiring the disease.

The woman reported sharing manicure instruments (likely unsanitized) with her cousin years ago. The cousin was later confirmed to be HIV-positive.

Dr. Katie Rodan, an Oakland, CA dermatologist not connected with the study, said in a New York Times article that many conditions, such as HIV, athlete’s foot, Hep C and yeast infections, can potentially be picked up “if salons do not disinfect equipment properly.”

In the case of the Brazilian woman, Brian Foley, PhD, AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses Basic Sciences Editor, says:

“This of HIV by shared manicure equipment is a very rare event that should serve not to make people fear HIV or contact with HIV-infected people. It should make people aware that sharing any utensils with possible blood-blood contact, such as needles used for drugs, tattoos, or acupuncture can result in transmission of viruses such as hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV.”

The researchers conclude their report by saying, “Our case raises the potential role of an additional fomite-related route of transmission of HIV-1.”

So, there’s no need to avoid your favorite nail shop or spa, but you do want to make sure you and your nail tech make your health a priority. Here are some ways to help protect yourself from possible infection or disease:

Bring your own tools:  Purchase your own files, buffers and nail brushes. These are made with porous materials that hold bacteria more easily. You can also purchase your own steel instruments (like clippers) and sterilize them with peroxide.

Follow one-time use:  Wood products can’t be sterilized and should only be used once. Toe separaters should only be used once.

Hold your nail tech accountable: If you brought tools, make sure they use yours. If using salon instruments, make sure they are using never-before-used or properly sterilized instruments.

Use licensed nail techs: Your manicurist should be licensed from their State Board of Cosmetology.

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Check your salon’s sterilization methods: You’ve probably seen the UV sterilizers in salons (it looks like a small toaster oven). These do not kill bacteria. Ideally, they should be using a “tuberculocidal” disinfectant (a blue color). Look for this in a bottle at their station.

Don’t get your cuticles cut: Cuticles protect your nail beds from bacteria, and cutting them can increase your risk for infection. At best, only have your cuticles pushed back.

Say no to razors: Razors and callus graters can cut the skin and make it easy for bacteria to enter. For rough heels, stick to using a pumice stone.

 

Visit the BlackDoctor.org HIV/AIDS center for more articles.