A Los Angeles AIDS clinic run by the adult film industry has got into big time trouble. It is now suspected of releasing health information on its patients to porn film producers and is to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) had lodged a formal written complaint alleging sweeping violations of federal patient confidentiality laws by the Adult Industry Medical (AIM) HealthCare Foundation, Los Angeles.
The complaint says that AIM requires its patients to sign an overly broad, possibly illegal, consent form for its HIV and STD testing services as well as the subsequent release of patient information. Apparently the AIM charges adult film producers an annual fee to access its online database of AIM patient test results; ironically, at the same time, AIM has been withholding the same crucial data on HIV and STD infections of clinic patients from state agencies investigating workplace safety.
That is the clinic charges the actors for the tests, make them cede the right over the data and make a neat pile by parting with the information to producers, but would not allow state officials any access to the data collected.
Many believe an epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) is raging uncontrolled in California's adult film industry. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH), workers in the adult film industry are ten times more likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease than members of the population at large. LADPH documented 2,013 individual cases of chlamydia and 965 cases of gonorrhea among workers between the years 2003 and 2007. LADPH has observed that many workers suffer multiple infections, with some performers having four or more separate infections over the course of a year. In addition, LADPH has stated that as many as 25 industry-related cases of HIV have been reported since 2004.
In March, the AHF succeeded in persuading state health officials to form an advisory panel to consider added protections, including requiring performers to use condoms. The panel is scheduled to meet for the first time June 29.
In its complaint to health authorities filed earlier this year, AHF officials held AIM's release of clinic patient data on HIV and STD infections via an online database violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other federal and state laws. In its decision to investigate AHF's complaint, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote:"Your allegation could reflect a violation of the general rules for impermissible uses and disclosures of protected health information at 45 C.F.R., Section 164.502 (a)."
HHS' letter also stated "Based on the facts that you have alleged we have decided to accept your case for investigation."
"AIM's testing clinic has long been the industry's fig leaf attempt at self-regulation. In fact, AIM is simply a ploy to deflect needed public scrutiny and responsible government regulation-a ploy that is perpetrated at the expense of the actors' health and privacy rights. We thank HHS for its decision to open a formal investigatin of AIM regarding breaches of patient confidentiality and are confident that the HHS' investigation will confirm our allegations," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "If the adult film industry required actors to use condoms during all filming, an action that would safeguard the physical health and safety of actors, there would likely not be such privacy violations of clinic patient data."