L.A. Daily News: Closing AIM Would Be a Mistake

VAN NUYS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Daily News has published an editorial opinion that espoused the permanent closure of the AIM Healthcare Foundation would be a mistake and be bad for the public.

The opinion, in its entirety, reads:

Straight society has a hard time dealing with the porn industry. On the one hand, it doesn't want to legitimize the business or the adult film actors in any way. On the other hand, it wants the industry and workers to conform to strict — and restrictive — rules and standards.

And, if there were another hand, on it would be the millions of customers who keep adult movies in high demand and the source of one of the San Fernando Valley's most profitable enterprises.

This societal schizophrenia is exhibited in the hopefully temporary closure earlier this month of one of the industry's most important health centers — AIM, or the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation. The Sherman Oaks-based clinic is the main screener of sexually transmitted diseases for adult film workers. It also acts as an advocate for an industry that others consider untouchable.

Citing what sounds like extremely minor paperwork violations, state public health officials ordered AIM to close on Dec. 9, the day after an adult film star announced publicly that he was treated poorly at the clinic after he tested positive for HIV in October and didn't get treatment as fast as he could.

In fact, it appears just ammunition in the long-standing feud between Los Angeles County Public Health officials and AIDS activists and AIM and its co-founder Sharon Mitchell over the issue of condoms in adult films. State law requires that adult film stars use condoms, but many performers eschew them. While AIM supplies free condoms, it focuses on testing performers as opposed to enforcing condom rules.

Mitchell, a former porn star herself, sees the closure as a conspiracy. But there's been nothing secret about how she and AIM have been targeted. After AIM was shut down, for example, Michael Weinstein, the executive director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a provider of medical treatment for AIDS and HIV patients, made it clear his goal is getting the adult film industry shut down if it doesn't use condoms.

While his concern about the spread of AIDS and HIV is admirable, he's misguided if he thinks persecuting AIM or adult film actors will make the public safer. It's likely to have the opposite effect.

AIM provides important support for adult film stars. AIM tests about 1,500 clients a month. And some have said that if AIM didn't do these screenings, they probably wouldn't happen. In fact, losing centers like AIM will likely force adult film production underground or to other states, endangering workers and public health even further.

If the county and other health officials truly care about public health, and not just punishing an organization that won't do what they want it to, they will find a way to work with AIM and the people engaged in this risky business, and not against them.