AIDS Group Takes Shot at AIM, Says It Violates Privacy Rights

Feb 24, 2010 10:00 AM PST
LOS ANGELES — Calling the testing of adult performers a "fig leaf," the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has taken a shot at the industry's top adult-performer testing clinic, asking federal, state and local authorities to look into patient disclosure practice and enforce patient privacy laws.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, or AHF, in a letter to the authorities said the AIM Healthcare Foundation is "just a a ploy to deflect public scrutiny and government regulation — a ploy that is perpetrated at the expense of the actors’ privacy rights, which would not be violated if the industry simply required actors to use condoms.”

"As we understand it, adult film producers have conferred on AIM a virtual monopoly with respect to STD testing," said Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "An actor who wants to work in the industry first needs to be tested at AIM."

Weinstein said that before testing, AIM requires the actor to agree to waive all confidentiality with respect to his or her test results, which AIM then publishes on a website where the highly confidential test results can be viewed by producers.

“AIM testing is a fig leaf that does not protect actors from the risks of unprotected sex during filming,” Weinstein said. “AIM’s hypocrisy is clear — AIM argues that patient privacy rights prevent it from cooperating with public health officials who seek to protect the health of adult film performers. But when profit is at stake, performer privacy seems no longer to be AIM’s concern.”

But AIM shot back Wednesday afternoon, claiming AHF has lodged "an unfounded campaign" to attack the adult-performer testing clinic after previous failed legal maneuvers against it.

"Our privacy policy does not only meet state and federal guidelines, but it exceeds them as well," AIM spokeswoman Brooke Hunter told XBIZ.

AIM operates two clinics in the Los Angeles area, one in Sherman Oaks and another in Granada Hills, but it also has a presence nationwide.

The AHF's letter was addressed to authorities of the federal Office for Civil Rights, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that enforces HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; the California Office of Health Information Integrity Enforcement Unit and Los Angeles County's Health Facilities Inspection Division.

In the letter, AHF raises specific concerns regarding AIM’s use of a so-called Authorization to Release Test Results to obtain privacy waivers from actors.

AHF contends the authorization does not appear to conform to the requirements of the HIPAA, California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act or AIDS testing laws.

It further contends that it conditions testing on the receipt from the actor of "an overbroad, irrevocable consent to disclosure of the actor’s STD test results by AIM to whomever AIM feels appropriate, in perpetuity and an indemnification of AIM for any damages resulting from its disclosures."

"The authorization is essentially a waiver of privacy rights that is against public policy," the letter said, citing Civil Code § 56.37. "Disclosures of testing results pursuant to such an invalid authorization would therefore appear to breach the actors’ privacy rights.”

Weinstein said that letters sent on Monday were in reaction to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases among adult film actors in the Los Angeles area.

"A rise due to the adult-film industry’s lack of respect for the actors’ health and safety rights, as well as to local and state agencies’ failure to enforce these rights," he said.

"Although AIM apparently routinely shares confidential performer health information with adult film producers via the internet, the agency has fought vigorously in court to prevent government health regulators such as Cal-OSHA from receiving the very same information, citing patient privacy concerns."

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