Los Angeles County officials' failure to regulate gay sex clubs and bathhouses has led to the exposure of hundreds of patrons to HIV, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said on Monday. In order to continue studying the issue, county health officials this month delayed a scheduled vote by county supervisors on a proposed ordinance to ban high-risk sexual behavior at the clubs. "We are saying certain types of behavior are not allowed, but who do you send in to these places to regulate this behavior?" asked county health director Jonathan Fielding. "Inspectors are going to be immediately recognized, and all [high-risk] behavior ceases."
Delays in implementing the ordinance have had "catastrophic" consequences for the gay community, said AHF president Michael Weinstein. "We should be there every day in a prominent location, and the establishment should encourage people to get tested." A rapid test returns test results in 20 minutes, he said.
In February, AHF pulled out of a contract with the county to provide HIV testing at bathhouses after it was denied entry into most of them, said Weinstein. "We said we were backing out of the program to protest being refused at the other clubs." Nearly two years have elapsed since a study documenting an 11% HIV incidence at Los Angeles bathhouses, compared to 5% of public clinic and community-based testers, Weinstein said. Fielding said health officials hope to have a draft ordinance within 30 days. (Reuters)