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N.Y. Bans Sexual Activities Tied to AIDS : Bathhouses, Other Establishments Face Closure for Violations

October 26, 1985|United Press International

NEW YORK — A state health panel Friday ordered the closing of homosexual bathhouses and other establishments if they promote "high-risk sexual activity" that could increase the chance of spreading AIDS.

The Public Health Council resolution went beyond recommendations made by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and State Health Commissioner David Axelrod by defining "high-risk sexual activity" to include oral sex.

The new regulation took effect immediately and is to be enforced in New York City by city Health Department inspectors who will enter bathhouses in uniform and undercover, Mayor Edward I. Koch said.

Owners, Operators Targeted

Patrons of the establishments will not be issued summonses, but owners or operators could be cited, Koch said.

The mayor ruled out the use of police to enforce the regulation. "I think it's bad in terms of public relations to turn this into a morals squad," he said.

The regulations went beyond the recommendations of Axelrod and Cuomo by adding oral sex as part of the "high-risk sex" definition in contracting AIDS. The type of sexual activity Cuomo had proposed barring was "blood-to-blood or semen-to-blood contact," which is thought to be the major way AIDS is contracted and spread.

Gary Fryer, a spokesman for Cuomo, said: "The council took the position that there was medical justification to go somewhat beyond what we suggested and that's fine."

Not Seeking Closures

"We're not seeking to close establishments. We're seeking to end dangerous sex," Axelrod said after the vote.

Reaction of homosexual leaders was mixed.

"We're celebrating a great victory," said Mathew Shebar, general counsel of the Committee for Stare Decisis, a homosexual organization that has fought for the resolution for six months.

"What this does is encourage safe sex," he said. "Any resistance to this resolution not only looks ridiculous but is without support in the gay community."

But some gay activists said the resolution was discriminatory.

"This appears to be an unequal application of law" because many experts say AIDS can be transmitted by heterosexual activity, said Ron Najman, a spokesman for the National Gay Task Force. "They are concentrating on the homosexual aspect."

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