Industry News

AIM Clinic Paid a Surprise Visit by State Investigators


Health officials inspect clinic that serves porn industry

Tired of waiting for a response from the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation about a positive HIV test for a performer, state investigators make the surprise visit.

By Kimi Yoshino
June 18, 2009

Tired of waiting for a response from the San Fernando Valley-based health clinic where an adult film actress recently tested positive for HIV, state health and safety investigators Wednesday performed a surprise inspection of the medical offices and this week will issue subpoenas demanding access to patient records.

Since the HIV case was disclosed last week, public health officials and AIDS advocacy groups repeatedly have criticized the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation for not cooperating fully with county and state authorities and for protecting the industry by withholding the name of the production company that filmed the woman without a current, clean test.


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The state also is seeking information about 18 additional HIV-positive cases that the clinic has reported to Los Angeles County health officials since 2004. The county did not investigate those cases and has no information on whether they involved active adult performers or how the transmissions occurred. AIM has said that the latest case involves the first active performer to contract the disease since a 2004 outbreak shut down production for a month.

“We were unaware of all of these cases until recent reports came out,” said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “That’s why we wanted to get into the clinic. We wanted to interview staff that work there. We wanted to look at records. We want to understand this.”

The agency was prepared to obtain a court warrant to gain access, but when investigators arrived at the Sherman Oaks facility Wednesday afternoon, clinic officials let them in and cooperated.

“The response was fairly good,” said Amy Martin, special counsel to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “They allowed our people to do a walk-around. They allowed them to speak to employees. There was no exchange of documents yet. There will be in the future and we’ll see how that goes.”

Sharon Mitchell, the former porn star who opened the clinic in 1998, could not be reached for comment.

The clinic’s attorney, Mark Levinson, said, “It’s strange that this happened at this particular moment, but it’s their right and we have nothing to hide.”

He said he could not comment on requests to turn over documents until he receives the subpoenas.

In statements on the clinic’s website, Mitchell repeatedly has maintained that the clinic is following all laws. She has said that the actress and her two sexual partners have been barred from work, pending additional testing. The partners haven’t tested positive.

Mitchell has told county officials that the clinic, which was sued for breach of privacy after the 2004 outbreak, is awaiting final, confirmatory test results and legally has up to seven days to report the information.

But state health and safety officials didn’t buy that.

“If you’re going to err, err on the side of caution,” Martin said. “Don’t say let’s wait another seven additional days and meanwhile, let’s go make some more unprotected films. . . . We think they’re creating a hazard by sending people into a known unsafe work practice. They’re who the industry relies on to stop the people from working.”

The industry has long held that its practices are safe. Producers say that no performer is filmed without proof of negative tests, which should be taken every 30 days, according to industry standards.

That is not adequate protection, Martin said, because the disease might not show up in tests for days. The only protection is condom use, she said.

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