Commentary & Opinion
Close Los Angeles County Bathhouses, Los Angeles Times Editorial Says
March 26, 2004
Following the release of a federally funded study showing a higher HIV prevalence among men at gay bathhouses compared with other locations in Los Angeles County, the "policy implication[s] ... should be clear enough: close the bathhouses," a Los Angeles Times editorial says. Shutting down bathhouses and sex clubs in the early 1980s "was crucial to San Francisco's successful containment of the nation's first major HIV epidemic," the editorial says (Los Angeles Times, 3/25). Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials have scheduled a meeting with the owners of area bathhouses and sex clubs to discuss options for strengthening HIV prevention efforts. Health officials are considering plans to impose rules on all types of sex clubs, including requiring them to offer condoms, on-site testing for sexually transmitted diseases and information on condom usage. The officials also are considering requiring the clubs to obtain a license from the health department and comply with certain regulations or risk being closed. The health department must submit a proposal for updating bathhouse regulations by May 15 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/24). The editorial says that the "sort of half-measures" that the county is considering are "wishful thinking and unenforceable" and "fal[l] far short of the decisive action the crisis requires." Bathhouses and sex clubs are a "clear and growing health threat," the Times says, adding that Los Angeles should "follow San Francisco's lead of 20 years ago." Although some advocates saw the bathhouses of San Francisco as a "symbol of gay freedom, ... there was no freedom and no pride in bathhouses becoming a conduit for the spread of a deadly virus that killed thousands of gay men before the world woke up and saw the threat," the editorials says, concluding, "Los Angeles should not have to relearn that painful lesson" (Los Angeles Times, 3/25).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.