L.A. Public Health Dept. 'Concerned' About HIV-Positive Performer Report

LOS ANGELES — Dr. Peter Kerndt, director of the sexually transmitted disease program for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told XBIZ Friday that the department is waiting for more information.

"AIM is not providing us with information sufficient to confirm what they are reporting," Kerndt said. "We are extremely concerned with the information that is coming in, but we are not surprised, since this industry has been out of compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements for barrier protection."

Kerndt said that a confirmed HIV report is required to be reported within seven days, "although they certainly can report at any time." AIM reported that HIV-positive test results for "Patient Zero" were received on June 6.

"What's disturbing about this is that they're using the regulation to withhold the information and delay an investigation of a serious health matter," Kerndt said. "They're saying that this is not a major event. I think if they were to ask the performer, it's a devastating, major, life-altering event for that individual. It's inexcusable that it would occur in the workplace."

When pressed, Kerndt said that he did not know who the performer was and did not know for sure that she had been infected on a set.

Kerndt also told XBIZ that he believed that screening was not sufficient to protect performers from STDs, saying that screening should be combined with barriers like condoms and dental dams to maintain workplace safety on adult sets.

"It's an unacceptable risk that a person would be repeatedly exposed to sexually transmitted diseases," Kerndt said. "We have more than 3,700 chlamydia and gonorrhea cases among performers reported from AIM and other agencies. Three-quarters are among women, and a quarter are reinfected multiple times within months."

The most recent figures from the L.A. County Health Department indicate that 869 new HIV cases were reported in Los Angeles County in July-Dec. 2008.

Kerndt said that in January, the health department recommended that performers be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea orally and rectally.

"Urine-based screening will not tell you if you have gonorrhea orally and rectally," Kerndt said. "We know in this industry that everyone has oral sex and most have rectal sex. And half the time, they are asymptomatic.

"If we were to screen orally and rectally, these numbers would double. If you don't look, you don't find, and if a person is asymptomatic they are exposing other people."

Kerndt is an M.D. and has a masters degree in public health.