AHF, Aided By LA Times, Continues Attack on AIM Healthcare

LOS ANGELES—As AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) president Michael Weinstein promised at a news conference on August 20, "My message to [legislators] and to the [adult] industry is, if you think it's going to go away, that you can just put your head down and wait us out, it's not going to happen."

On Tuesday, Weinstein took his threat one step further, taking AHF supporters and members of Shelly Lubben's anti-porn Pink Cross Foundation to a meeting of county supervisors to press their anti-adult industry agenda.

The groups were armed with the fact that their supporters had reportedly sent nearly 200 letters to County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose area, the Third District, encompasses the areas of the San Fernando Valley where most adult businesses are located, asking that Yaroslavsky "look into the issue and demand action" from the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

AHF had previously filed a lawsuit against the health department in Superior Court claiming that the county had not done enough to prevent the spread of disease among adult performers, but L.A. Times reporter Kimi Yoshino, in a blog entry posted Tuesday, once again repeated the false statistics which AHF and County Health continue to use to bolster their claims that adult performers are at substantial risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

"[C]ounty health officials released data that 18 HIV cases and more than 3,700 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been reported since 2004 by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, a San Fernando Valley-based clinic," Yoshino wrote. "Clinic officials said the HIV cases did not involve active performers. County officials declined to provide any details about those cases and said little investigation was done. County public health officials have declined several requests for interviews." [Emphasis added.]

In fact, aside from the three HIV cases traced to performer Darren James in 2004, only one of the reported HIV cases involved an "active performer," and AIM Healthcare has ascertained that that performer did not contract the infection while performing in an adult movie. Additionally, AIM officials have disputed the county's claim of 3,700 cases of other STDs, noting that if an infected performer comes back to AIM for additional tests while still in the process of being treated for his/her initial infection, the county health department looks upon those additional tests for the single infection as if they were tests for multiple infections, thereby radically skewing the statistics—a fact that Yoshino has never seen fit to report in any of her Times articles.

In fact, at the news conference, AHF official Whitney Energan-Cordova agreed that County Health should only count multiple tests for one infection once.

"The standard is for them [the health department] to deduplicate those based upon those identifying pieces of information that they've got," Energan-Cordova said. If they're not doing that, "It could potentially be a problem whether it's statistically significant or not."

"I find it appalling that the L.A. Times keeps dancing around numbers that they have had to retract from previous stories," Free Speech Coalition executive director Diane Duke told AVN, "and equally unfortunate that AIDS Healthcare Foundation has chosen to focus their energy and resources on our low risk industry when there is real work to be done in the area of HIV awareness and prevention."

But AHF thinks it's doing a good job on the HIV prevention front, even as its own preferred test gives the L.A. populace a false sense of security

"Testing and protection are two different things," Energan-Cordova noted, "and there shouldn't be one without the other. There can be both, but when you test them and don't protect them, that doesn't make any sense."

The statement was a bit disingenuous, however, since AHF's idea of an appropriate HIV test is a cheap form of the "Elisa test" which the adult industry abandoned more than a decade ago. The Elisa test looks for the antibodies formed by the body's attempt to fight off an HIV infection, and it can take as long as six months for such a test to show positive—far too long to be useful to the adult industry. Yet AHF has administered thousands—possibly tens of thousands—of such tests to members of L.A.'s gay population and others, and while it also advises those tested to use condoms for safer sexual encounters, the mere fact that its preferred test can fail to detect HIV infections less than six months old may give its clientele the exact "false sense of security" that AHF claims AIM's more exacting PCR-DNA test gives to adult performers. In contrast to the Elisa test, the PCR-DNA test detects the existence of an HIV infection within seven days on average, and often in even less time.

"In the adult entertainment industry, self regulation works," Duke declared. "As a result, transmission of HIV and STIs [sexually transmitted infections] are significantly lower within the industry than the general population and our performers tend to be healthier. Adult performers are the cornerstone of our industry. We care about their health and well-being, which is why FSC and AIM constantly develop and monitor best practices that focus on industry risk reduction."

Yoshino reports that Yaroslavsky told AHF and its supporters at the meeting that the health of adult performers is a "legitimate issue," and promised that, "If there's something we can do, we're going to find a way to do it." He also called on the health department to create a report on adult performers' health within two weeks, even though the department had filed an answer to AHF's lawsuit with the court noting that the percentage of adult performers as compared to the entire population of Los Angeles County is so small—less than 0.1%—that "[p]lainly, the public need here is minimal."