Health officials in St. Louis are investigating allegations made by two former employees of an AIDS-prevention organization agency that federal money was used to hire a gay-porn movie actor who stripped and engaged in sexual contact with guests at a "safer sex" event. The director of the city's health department, Hugh Stallworth, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the allegations are "quite serious" but that he could not discuss them further.
Bruce Hopson, a lawyer for Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS, called the allegations false. Hopson said BABAA paid actor Edgar Gaines of Memphis $500 to speak at a gathering held in July in the downtown residence of Erise Williams Jr., the group's executive director. But Hopson said the actor "did not strip for anybody and nobody touched him." Gaines did appear during the event wearing only a towel and boots, Hopson said, but "that doesn't mean he stripped. I'm not here to defend all of the actions, but we did not pay somebody to strip at a party."
Hopson said the AIDS group asked Gaines to speak "because he's a name draw. He's somebody that the people we're trying to reach can relate to. When we try to reach people, the standard clinical setting sometimes doesn't do."
Gaines was paid from a $96,000 grant issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight syphilis. Stallworth said the health department could freeze the grant and require BABAA to reimburse inappropriate spending.