-- An AIDS advocate says public health officials 'have been
asleep at the switch' in not investigating recent cases in the
adult film industry and urges that condoms be used on porn sets.
As prominent AIDS advocates called Thursday for Los Angeles
County officials to require condoms on porn sets or shut down
production, more questions arose about why the Public Health
Department has not investigated 18 HIV cases reported in the last
five years by the clinic that serves the adult film industry.
"L.A. County public health officials have been asleep at the
switch with regard to monitoring HIV and STD prevention and
testing in the region's porn industry," said Michael Weinstein,
president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "It really seems
very, very clear that they do have the authority. Why aren't they
Officials from the Public Health Department declined requests for
The previously unpublicized cases came to light after news last
week that a female porn performer had tested HIV positive this
month. All 18 were reported to the county by the Adult Industry
Medical Healthcare Foundation, a San Fernando Valley-based clinic
that serves the porn industry, since a 2004 HIV outbreak shut
down production for a month.
AIM clinic officials have said the cases never became public
because all were detected in aspiring performers who ended up not
entering the business or in non-performers who used their testing
In recent days, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's top public
health officer, said the county did little investigation into the
HIV cases since the 2004 outbreak.
He said the burden of notifying potential partners of people who
test positive for HIV rests with the patient's medical clinic or
doctor and that the current system and laws do not grant the
county health department that kind of authority.
But, according to the California Department of Public Health,
local health officers do have the authority to offer partner
notification services for HIV, although they are not required to
Many public health experts view notifying partners as key to
preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In
November 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention issued a report strongly recommending that health
departments take an active role in partner notification services
of newly diagnosed HIV patients.
Other counties in California already have moved to take on a
bigger role in partner notification, which gives health officials
the opportunity to better understand who else may have been
In San Francisco, public health officials review the names of
people recently infected with HIV and call the patients'
physicians to offer the partner notification services.
In Alameda County, local health officials said they were
following the CDC's recommendations and working to take a greater
role in offering partner notification in HIV cases, particularly
in communities with high rates of infection.
In the latest porn industry case, county and state health
officials say they have been stymied by AIM clinic officials.
The clinic has not yet reported the case and has not responded to
requests from the county for the name of the production company
where the woman worked.
She performed June 5, a day after testing at the AIM clinic,
despite lacking a negative HIV test within 30 days, which the
industry calls for under its voluntary guidelines. Her test came
back HIV positive June 6.
On Wednesday, citing the clinic's slow response, the California
Division of Occupational Safety and Health performed a surprise
inspection at the clinic and officials said they plan to subpoena
The AIDS advocacy group praised those efforts, but said neither
the county nor the state are doing enough to mandate condom use
in the industry. Under state labor laws, employees should be
protected from blood and bodily fluids in the workplace.
If condoms aren't used -- and porn producers openly acknowledge
that they are rarely used -- the state and county should shut the
industry down, Weinstein said.
"If there are roaches in the kitchen, they go out there with the
sheriff and close it down," he said. "Why is this different?"
Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a
porn industry advocacy group, disputed the AIDS Healthcare
"Currently, we are not required to have condoms on sets," she
said. "We know that government regulation does not work, and the
industry's self-regulation has worked and is working very well.
It's frustrating for outside entities to want to regulate our
industry without knowing anything about it."
Duke said AIM's past experience has shown that protecting porn
performers does work. As for the most recent HIV case, she said
the female performer was diagnosed with HIV quickly, and "it was