LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Times Friday posted another in a series of articles containing comments by state and county health officials critical of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), a non-profit medical clinic that routinely tests industry sex workers (as well as civilians) for sexually-transmitted diseases and keeps a regularly updated database of test results for performers that is available for review by adult entertainment production companies.
In addition to statements critical of safety measures used by the industry to protect sex workers on the set, comments by state and county health officials also have called into question the cooperation of AIM with investigations into reports of infections, including the current case of a female performer found by AIM to be HIV positive last week.
“AIM Healthcare has never been cooperative with us and our investigations,” Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL OSHA), told the Times. So far, the San Fernando Valley-based clinic has declined to tell county or state officials the name of the performer or her employer.
“You’d think they’d want to be a full partner in trying to prevent the spread of this disease,” Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health officer for Los Angeles County, is quoted as saying.
The Times article contains an assertion first reported Friday by Dr. Colin Hamblin, AIM’s medical director, that the un-named performer in the current case was first tested and found positive for HIV June 4. However, on the AIM website, the clinic’s founder, Dr. Sharon Mitchell, says that because the woman was first tested June 4 – in other words, blood was drawn to be tested for STDs – it is impossible for her to have been given either a positive or negative notification, because results take two days to process.
“There was no result available either positive or negative until 6/6/09,” the AIM website says.
No one refutes, however, that the woman worked June 5, a day after she was tested and a day after her results came back. Two first-generation male performers have been retested, and a second-generation girlfriend of one of the male performers is scheduled for retesting. Six other performers potentially exposed to one of the second-generation males also have been notified by AIM.
Dr. Hamblin told the Times that AIM is investigating the reason why the performer worked before being cleared to perform.
State and county officials have been increasingly vocal in their complaint that AIM is essentially stonewalling them in their own investigations of the current case by not providing the information necessery to conduct an investigation, such as the names of the infected party or her employer.
In the first of two posts made to the AIM website late Friday, AIM vigorously defended its behavior, saying it has followed “to the letter all required protocols and reporting structures,”and laid out its policy regarding the public disclosure of cases invloving infected parties.
“Due to AIM’s extensive data base, all of her partners and their partners were notified to come in for testing, and in fact all have been tested and preliminary reports indicate all are negative. AIM, as is their protocol, notified the County Health Department’s HIV Epidemiology division of a possible HIV infection. However, since they did not have the results of the other tests given, or any written report, AIM could not disclose the name of the woman involved,” the statement reads.
“As to reports of other HIV cases not being disclosed,” it continues, “it is clear that most occurred under prior law which only required that the incident be reported and the postal zone address and a partial social security number of the person testing positively be disclosed. As to their being “unpublicized”, the AIM data base, which is used by all production companies, lists actors and their current testing results. When an individual desires to go into the industry, he or she must initially be tested by AIM to go into the data base. If they test positively, they do not go into the data base and cannot work in the industry.”
In the second announcement posted to the AIM site Friday, the clinic laid out the timeline of the current case in greater detail>
“The patient zero tested on Thursday evening, 6/4/09, at our Sherman Oaks Facility, at 13:43,” the statement reads. “Her specimen, along with other daily specimens, were picked up by the Laboratory Courier. Due to the fact that her test was obviously being re run for confirmation, there was no result whatsoever in our database from the Laboratory. There is no way anyone from AIM would have known the nature of the result, either detected or not detected for HIV.
“Her last test had expired 5/29/09 and she chose to work regardless, without the result of the pending test. AIM does not give people permission to work, or not to work, it is our sole duty to provide accurate and early detection testing in a timely manner. Our staff does not ‘guess’ or give a verbal commitment unless the negative result in front of them. The young woman’s test came back on Saturday, 6/6/09, by this time she had worked in the adult industry, sans current test.”
Saturday morning, the Times published an article to its site titled, Porn Stars at L.A. Convention Defend HIV Tests, containing quotes from Director Jules Jordan (“I don’t think there’s a problem right now”), Vivid co-founder Steven Hirsch (“As of now, we feel like it’s working well”), Wicked actress Jessica Drake (“[I find] comfort in the testing system we have set up”) and actress Belladonna.
While Drake found comfort in the fact that she works for the only condom-mandatory heterosexual production company in the business, only Beladonna, who has performed in over 250 adult films, sounded a dissonant note regarding the testing protocols currently followed by the California-based adult entertainment industry.
“I don’t think 30 days is good enough,” she told the Times, during a break from signing autographs at the consumer show, Erotica LA. “This is our bodies, our life, our work.”
AIM actually recommends that performers get screened every 14-30 days, though the industry standard mandates testing every 30 days as a requirement of employment.