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Judge blocks Cal/OSHA request in agency’s porn HIV investigation

June 22, 2011 |  6:00 am

Photo: A cyclist rides infront of the building that houses the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation clinic. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

An Alameda County judge has rejected a request by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health to obtain the identity of the production company that employed a porn performer who contracted HIV in 2009.

Last week's ruling by Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith is the latest hurdle for Cal/OSHA officials seeking to investigate lax condom use on porn sets, which put adult-film performers at risk for HIV infection. The case involved an actress who contracted HIV in Los Angeles County in 2009 and is only known as "Patient Zero."

Cal/OSHA had subpoenaed the information from the now-defunct Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation clinic, a healthcare center that catered to porn performers. The clinic, backed by the porn industry, offered monthly HIV tests whose results were fed into an online database that producers could review before hiring performers.

DOCUMENT: Read the ruling

In her ruling, Smith wrote that Cal/OSHA "has not demonstrated, by evidence or argument, a compelling need for the information sought in the subpoena."

Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for Cal/OSHA, disputed the ruling. She said the state agency was requesting information to identify Patient Zero's employer so it could investigate the company's on-set practices.

"Cal/OSHA remains concerned that many employers in the adult-film industry continue to expose performers to numerous sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, as many employers do not allow or require the use of condoms during sex acts," Monterroza said. She said Cal/OSHA is required by state law to investigate possible disease exposures at a workplace.

Monterroza said most medical providers routinely cooperate with Cal/OSHA on incidents involving workplace mishaps, such as transmission of tuberculosis at a workplace.

The agency is reviewing whether to appeal the judge's ruling.

Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who argued against Cal/OSHA on behalf of Patient Zero, called the judge's ruling a victory for patients' right to privacy.

"Cal/OSHA's interest in getting this information are far outweighed by the patient's privacy interests," Eliasberg said.

In April, a report by health officials indicated that adult-film companies were hindering public health probes into a separate investigation of HIV infection on a porn film site, this time involving an incident in 2010.

"Limited cooperation from many adult-film companies restricted this contact investigation. Rarely did industry legal counsel give information for this investigation," the report said.

RELATED:

Investigation of HIV in porn industry hurt by 'limited cooperation' from filmmakers, report says

L.A. County may shake up sexually transmitted diseases program

Porn industry health clinic closes – again

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: A cyclist rides in front of the building that houses the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation clinic. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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