Local and Community News
California Officials Enlist Help of Gay Sex Club Owners
April 14, 2003
Ever since San Francisco closed down gay bathhouses in the 1980s, sex venue operators have been wary when public health officials come calling. To their surprise, when California's Office of AIDS convened a recent conference with Bay Area sex club owners and representatives, it was so they could assist the state in stemming the rising tide of HIV and STDs. "During this meeting, I must have heard from health officials at least 10 times, "We are not interested in closing you down," said Buzz Bense, owner of Eros. "We are interested in working with you."Adapted from:
It was the first such meeting between state-level officials and Bay Area sex venue operators. Officials met with sex club operators in Los Angeles in early April, and planned to meet San Diego owners sometime this month. "Several of the clubs have developed some pretty comprehensive prevention programs," said Michael Montgomery, head of the state Office of AIDS.
Venues such as Eros and Steamworks already employ full-time programs devoted to safe sex outreach and HIV/STD testing. State officials said they want to work with the venues to create consistent prevention messages and to encourage all the clubs to offer HIV/STD testing. "They certainly can do a lot in both making information available on the current status of outbreaks in the local area and to make condoms and lubricants available so people have no difficulty getting their hands on them," said Montgomery.
Sex clubs are a logical place to address HIV/STDs, and these efforts should be supported by public health officials, said Steven Tierney, San Francisco's director of HIV prevention. Jeff Klausner, the city's director of STD prevention, agrees and wants to augment the city's collaboration. Previously, due to funding issues, the clubs could not provide HIV and STD testing on the same days. Now testing services in the clubs will be combined.
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
04.03.03; Matthew S. Bajko