An agency spokesman said: “We have issued this guidance because there are a growing number of these spas. When the correct hygiene procedures are followed, the risk of infection is very low”.
“However, there is still a risk of transmission of a number of infections — this does include viruses like HIV and hepatitis.”
It’s a fine line to disagree with the Health Protection Agency but LASS are in good company. HIV expert charities like Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust also say the likelihood of catching HIV in this manner is “almost impossible”.
It doesn’t help when the media sensationalise stories like this and take them out of context, reporting headlines such as “Fears fish foot spa pedicures could spread HIV and hepatitis C”
Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT, has accused the HPA of “misleading” people .
She said: “There is no risk of HIV being passed on through a fish pedicure and these claims do nothing but undermine public understanding. At a time when knowledge of HIV is declining, it is crucial for the public to be aware of the facts so they can protect themselves from real transmission risk – and not get preoccupied with sensationalist and inaccurate reports. We are concerned the HPA’s guidance has been misleading in terms of HIV risk and we urge them to clarify their position on this as soon as possible”.
“People are contracting HIV because they aren’t using condoms, not because they’re going for fish pedicures!”
Lisa Power, policy director at THT, said: “The risk of HIV being transmitted through a fish pedicure is so small as to be almost impossible. HIV is a fragile virus once it is outside the body; it cannot be passed on via animal or insect bites.
“For transmission to occur, two successive clients would need open wounds on their feet and there would have to be huge amounts of infected blood in the water. The reality is, in this country, too many people are contracting HIV because they aren’t using condoms, not because they’re going for fish pedicures.”
The National AIDS Trust have issued their own press release on the subject and a key point being made is the HPA’s report examines the available evidence and scientific plausibility for the transmission of blood borne viruses from person to person, via the water in the fish tank. The HPA’s own report (which you can download from here) says “there is theoretical potential for transmission to occur” not “Pedicures could spread HIV”