SACRAMENTO—A proposed amendment to California's Health and Safety Code, sponsored by Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes), would have serious consequences for adult industry performers.
AB 2590, which was introduced on Feb. 19, would amend California Health and Safety Code Sec. 121010, which is the section which sets forth various exceptions to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), whose purpose is to insure the privacy of Americans' health status, including whether they are HIV-positive, by preventing unauthorized disclosure of such medical information.
California law currently allows disclosure of an individual's HIV status to the person's attorney and to certain government agencies, including emergency medical responders, those who harvest or handle donated body parts, and for statistical purposes to the communicable diseases section of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, all of which are prohibited by law from revealing that status to any other agency or individual.
Lowenthal's bill, however, would add one more category of officials to whom the person's HIV status would be revealed: "an agent or contractor of the state that, by contract with the state, is authorized to provide medical care and treatment to the subject of the test."
And who is the most prominent "agent or contractor of the state that ... is authorized to provide medical care and treatment"? One primary contender for that position would be AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), whose president, Michael Weinstein, recently accused the Adult Industry Medical (AIM) Healthcare Foundation of illegally revealing performers' HIV/STD status to adult producers who might want to hire the performers.
"Michael Weinstein is confusing 'HIPAA' with 'hypocrite,'" AIM's Dr. Sharon Mitchell charged. "Am I wrong that in this bill, he wants everyone in the industry to have their HIV status disclosed automatically but he's saying that AIM is violating HIPAA laws by contacting performers' partners privately? That's the most hypocritical thing I've ever heard!"
Mitchell has accused AHF of seeking to drive AIM out of business and to become the only health agency who can provide healthcare, including HIV/STD testing, to adult industry personnel, even though the test AHF uses for HIV, which looks for antibodies to the disease rather than the virus itself, can take as long as six months after infection to give a positive result. AHF has also petitioned the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) as well as the Los Angeles and Florida departments of public health to require performers in sexually explicit content to wear condoms and use dental dams when performing sex acts on camera.
The problems to performers that would result from this change in the law cannot be exaggerated. It would mean that performers' HIV status together with their real names and contact information would be reported automatically to agencies like AHF, which could then contact the performer directly either to offer treatment (which AIM also provides) or to proselytize the performer to go "condom only" in their performances.
In recent months, the LA Department of Public Health has approached performers entering or exiting the AIM clinic to attempt to do similar "counseling," and has sought out performers' real names and addresses in order to contact not only the performers but their roommates, friends and families to attempt to discuss the performer's health status with them. The proposed change in the Health and Safety Code might allow AHF representatives to do the same.
Keep checking AVN.com for updates on this important new development.