'Patient Zero' Permanent Injunction OKd by Judge

Rhett Pardon

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Alameda Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith has granted a permanent injunction preventing Cal-OSHA from obtaining the personally identifying information of "Patient Zero" or other patients of the now-defunct AIM Health Care Foundation.

The injunction represents a defeat of the California regulator’s efforts at obtaining medical records and identification of adult film performers.

"Judge Smith was very specific in requiring Cal-OSHA to obtain performer permission and authorization before seeking HIV test results or personally identifying information," said Karen Tynan, attorney for AIM. "It is bittersweet after this lengthy fight and all that has happened in the last two years.

"[The judge] made the correct ruling and the medical records of performers and performer medical privacy has been recognized as requiring protection from intrusive subpoenas of Cal-OSHA."

The suit over Patient Zero information was put on the fast track after her counsel from the ACLU learned of a meeting slated in July between Cal-OSHA officials and AIM personnel.

The court filing detailed the extent Cal-OSHA used its regulatory power to seek patient medical records at AIM, which provides HIV and STD testing and treatment mostly for adult industry performers.

Cal-OSHA, which conducted a surprise inspection of the AIM facility in Sherman Oaks, Calif., on June 17, 2209, later issued a subpoena to AIM but not to Patient Zero, who was informed by AIM on June 6, 2009, that results of an HIV test showed her preliminarily testing positive for HIV. (Patient Zero’s identity has never been revealed publicly.)

The subpoena issued by Cal-OSHA included requests for confidential public health records and "personally identifying information of AIM patents who tested positive for HIV that could reasonably be expected to identify or lead to the identification of Patient Zero."

At the time, AIM personnel refused to produce records.

But Cal-OSHA officials scheduled a follow-up investigatory interview with AIM staff in Oakland, Calif., according to the suit.

Once Patient Zero’s attorneys got wind of the interview with AIM staff, they immediately shot off a request to Cal-OSHA objecting to it.

Patient Zero’s counsel said they never received any response from Cal-OSHA relative to the request; however a receipt of the letter showed that Cal-OSHA special counsel did receive the letter.

Patient Zero's counsel later filed its suit at Alameda Superior Court, later receiving a temporary injunction. This week Smith made it permanent.

Patient Zero was diagnosed HIV-positive, but no other performers were found to have contracted the virus from transmission.