LA Closes Clinic Catering To Porn Industry

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Los Angeles County has ordered a health clinic that serves the porn industry to close. State regulators say there was a problem with the clinic's application to become a community clinic. The facility tests actors for STDs ... and maintains a database porn producers use to check performers' medical statuses.

GUY RAZ, host:

To Los Angeles now, where regulators have shut down a medical clinic that caters to the adult-film industry. The clinic was operating without a proper license, and it came under fire this week from a former adult film star who tested positive for HIV.

NPR's Mandalit Del Barco has the story.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: For the past 12 years, the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, or AIM, has been testing performers for sexually transmitted diseases. Its clinic provided the results to film producers. But this week, the clinic was ordered to stop.

Mr. AL LUNDEEN (Spokesman, California Department of Public Health): They're required to have a license to operate. They do not.

DEL BARCO: Al Lundeen is a spokesman for California's public health department. He says AIM's clinic only has a physician's license. State officials denied the nonprofit's application for a community clinic license. For one thing, Lundeen says, the clinic didn't have what's known as a transfer policy for patients.

Mr. LUNDEEN: If they needed greater care than what's available at the clinic, if they needed some kind of emergency care, they just have an agreement with a nearby hospital to transfer the patient to that facility. They have communicated to us that they're working on that.

DEL BARCO: In the meantime, the clinic is closed for further testing of STDs, though performers and producers can still pick up past results.

(Soundbite of ringing)

Unidentified Woman: AIM Healthcare.

DEL BARCO: The clinic is still answering the phone, but not granting any interviews. The directors issued a statement saying they're listing locations where performers can have their blood and urine collected. Porn producers like Steve Hirsch, who heads Vivid Entertainment, says the news will not stop them from shooting films.

Mr. STEVE HIRSCH (Porn Producer, Vivid Entertainment): We absolutely will not let any performer work on our sets without being tested. We think that AIM does a great job but in the meantime, we have several other options.

DEL BARCO: The decision to close down AIM's clinic came on the heels of criticism by former porn actor Derrick Burts. The 24-year-old told reporters the clinic staff never gave him support or advice after he tested positive for HIV.

Mr. DERRICK BURTS (Former Porn Actor): AIM wasn't there to protect me or help me. You know, I went two months without help from anybody in the industry - no producers reached out to help me. You know, this multibillion-dollar industry - they can't get it together to help their performers. That hurt me, and it let me down.

DEL BARCO: Burts is calling for mandatory condom use on all porn shoots. He told the L.A. Times gay productions require condoms but not testing, and heterosexual shoots worked the other way around.

Mr. BURTS: What they tell you in porn is that if - you know, you're not going to make any money if you wear a condom. You know, there's no - viewers don't want to see that. So I didn't even know you had an option to wear a condom on set. I always just thought, you know, you had to do bareback.

DEL BARCO: The president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein, applauds the shutdown of AIM's clinic, which he says gave producers an excuse not to require condoms.

Mr. MICHAEL WEINSTEIN (President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation): Well, we finally removed the fig leaf from the porn industry. AIM has been impersonating a health clinic for 12 years.

DEL BARCO: Weinstein is demanding adult-film productions be shut down until condom use is required of all performers.

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

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