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California denies license to porn industry clinic

The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation was told one was needed to continue operating, but the denial's effect was not immediately clear. For now, the clinic remains open.

December 09, 2010|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

California Department of Public Health officials have notified the San Fernando-based health clinic that serves the porn industry that its application to operate as a community clinic has been denied, according to department officials.


FOR THE RECORD:
Porn industry health clinic: An article in the Dec. 9 LATExtra section about state health officials' denial of a community clinic license for the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, which serves the porn industry, said that the clinic was based in San Fernando. The facility is located in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. —

It was unclear late Wednesday what effect the state's denial would have on the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, known as AIM, which producers of straight porn rely on to test performers for sexually transmitted diseases before filming begins. The industry began voluntary testing in an effort to keep state regulators appeased and avoid further regulations.

Clinic officials had applied for a license in June after authorities told them they needed one to continue operating, said Al Lundeen, a department spokesman. He said the clinic was notified of the state's decision Tuesday.

"Our staff will be in contact to discuss [the] next steps," said Lundeen, who said as of Wednesday the clinic remained open.

Lundeen did not provide details about the state's decision, which came the same day that an HIV-positive adult film performer, Derrick Burts, came forward to offer sharp criticism of his treatment at AIM.

Burts, who is calling for mandatory condom use and other reforms in the adult film industry, began his porn career this year after responding to postings on Craigslist. In June, he visited an Orange County-based modeling agency.

"The agent there promised me a better life. He told me I would have a chance to make thousands of dollars off of one shoot," Burts said. "They loved my look and said I had money written all over me."

Burts, 24, said the agent advised him to work in gay porn "because that's where I would make the money."

With his agent's guidance, Burts invented two aliases: "Cameron Reid" for straight films and "Derek Chambers" for gay films.

He said he thought he would be protected from infection because he used condoms on gay porn sets and was tested for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases monthly at AIM before working on straight productions.

In October, just months after he began working in both gay and straight film productions, Burts learned he was HIV-positive after a routine test at AIM's clinic in Sherman Oaks.

"They fill your head with all this stuff and tell you the testing will protect you," he said Wednesday during an emotional news conference at the Hollywood headquarters of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, where he sought help after growing disappointed in AIM's care.

In the porn industry Wednesday, some were critical of Burts and other "crossover" performers.

Donny Long, a former porn actor who runs the XXXfilmjobs website, said testing is not enough to protect performers in straight films from the risks taken by men who also work in gay porn. At the same time, he said, mandating condoms would drive straight porn production underground.

But Chi Chi LaRue, a longtime Los Angeles-based porn director, said the straight porn industry would be best protected by expanding condom use. LaRue left Vivid Entertainment when it stopped using condoms, and now requires condom use at the gay porn company she co-owns. LaRue said testing provides the illusion of protection in straight porn.

"I consider every single person that I work with, whether gay or straight, to be a risk," she said. "So I protect everybody on my sets."

Burts reiterated Wednesday that he believed he was infected while on the job, probably during a gay porn shoot in Florida where he used condoms during intercourse but not oral sex. He got his positive test result Oct. 9 and had last tested negative Sept. 3. He rebutted statements made last month by clinic officials that he had contracted the virus in his personal sex life.

During the time he worked in the porn industry, Burts said, he had sex outside of work only with his girlfriend, a fellow porn performer who has tested negative. He said although he advertised as an escort service called RentBoy, he never worked as one.

Burts, originally known as "Patient Zeta," said the clinic staff told him he had contracted HIV from a fellow performer, described to him as a "known positive." He also said the clinic staff told him that another male crossover performer had tested HIV-positive, unrelated to his case.

AIM officials have not notified Los Angeles County public health officials that any performer tested HIV-positive since Patient Zeta, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's public health director.

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