Dispute Over Los Angeles County Proposals To Improve Efforts to Prevent STD, HIV Transmission Examined
The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday examined a "brewing dispute" in Los Angeles County over a proposal to improve efforts to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases among men who have sex with men at bathhouses and sex clubs (Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, 3/23). The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in February approved a motion that required officials at the county Department of Health Services and other county workers to submit a proposal to the board within 90 days to improve such efforts. The board passed the motion in response to recent studies that found higher rates of HIV and other STDs among patrons of bathhouses and sex clubs (California Healthline, 2/4). Under a current county ordinance, bathhouse owners must provide condoms, mandate their use and educate patrons about safe-sex practices. However, some county officials maintain that the ordinance is vague and difficult to enforce. In response, county health officials have considered proposals that would implement "tougher enforcement" of the ordinance and would impose the ordinance on other sex clubs, the Times reports. They also have considered a proposal to require bathhouses and sex clubs to provide onsite testing for HIV and other STDs. Under the proposals, the county could close bathhouses and sex clubs that fail to comply. County health officials also may require bathhouses and sex clubs to obtain licenses from the county health department. Public health officials and AIDS activists have raised concerns that without such proposals, the number of HIV cases in the county will "spiral out of control," the Times reports. However, bathhouse owners and some gay rights activists maintain that such proposals would violate the civil rights of patrons and owners. County health officials plan to meet with bathhouse and sex club owners to discuss the proposals (Los Angeles Times, 3/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.