Friday, July 24, 2009

Even XXX Stars Need TLC

"I've never watched a pornographic movie in my life," says Bobi, genial lab tech at the modest, quiet office of AIM Health Care on shady White Oak Avenue.

When I press her, incredulous that someone who works in a health care office that caters to the needs of adult film actors has never been exposed to that industry's primary product, she sticks by her story. "They did have one on at my bachelorette party, but I didn't really look at it, and now you couldn't pay me to watch one. I know everyone in the industry, and it would almost be like watching a video of my kids having sex. I wouldn't want to do that."

When she puts it that way, it makes sense. Bobi tells me that some clients of the clinic even refer to her as "Mom," and when I overhear her soothing a nervous patient on the phone ("Don't worry honey; chlamydia is a bacterial infection and it can be cured with medicines") I understand why. It's actually rather touching to see such respectful treatment given to a group of people who are most likely no strangers to the exact opposite.

The Granada Hills branch of AIM, short for Adult Industry Medical Healthcare, is the "other" office of the nonprofit service which offers STD testing not just to adult film actors but also to anyone who asks. "We're smaller and quieter," Bobbi says. "The Sherman Oaks office is a zoo, with lots of talent coming in and out, and they often have to wait. In this office it's a lot smaller. This is where you come if you want more privacy, or if the talent don't want to run into people they know." The Granada Hills office also serves a higher proportion of "civilians" -- locals who have no connection to the adult film industry but just need an HIV test, or a test for any other STD.

Adult film actors are encouraged to get tested for STDs on a monthly basis, and AIM maintains a database of actors with clean results. If an actor's name is not in AIM's database, they won't be able to work. In addition to STD testing, AIM also offers a full range of health services, including drug and alcohol counseling, psychiatric assessment, and group workshops such as "Life After Porn." AIM also offers a scholarship program that helps people who are ready to make the transition out of sex work and back into civilian life.

There are several advantages of going to AIM for an HIV test, even if you're not a porn star: a shorter wait time for results, because of AIM's relationship with their laboratory and the sheer volume of HIV tests they run; the low cost; the convenient location; the extra measure of privacy with records kept separate from those of your family doctor.

AIM was in the news recently when one actress tested positive for HIV, and L.A. County Health officials caused a stir in the industry by saying that 16 to 18 adult film actors had tested positive since 2004, a number they recanted shortly afterward when they realized that not all of AIM's clients work in the industry. But the fallout from those improperly inflated numbers is still causing problems for AIM, and Dr. Sharon Mitchell, AIM's founder wrote on the organization's blog that "Now we have OSHA so far up our butts we have a sore throat."

When the current brouhaha blows over, AIM's staff will be able to return to their primary focus: providing a valuable service not just to sex workers but to the community at large, a little oasis of quiet dignity in a turbulent world.



NPR Interview with Dr. Sharon Mitchell, former porn star and AIM founder:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17044239&ft=1&f=1

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share It