On January 10, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors mandated that county officials shutter and fine commercial sex venues flouting HIV-prevention requirements, including on-site testing, free condoms and lubricant, educational brochures, signs prohibiting risky behavior and safe-sex monitors, who evict disobedient patrons. So are clubs following orders? POZ dispatched an investigator just after the March 1 compliance deadline to find out.
Our inside man reported that three of the four venues he visited—Flex Complex, Hollywood Spa and Melrose Baths—seemed compliant, upholding their already rigorous standards. Melrose, for instance, already had HIV testing in place, while Flex and Hollywood were meeting with AIDS Project Los Angeles to consult about establishing testing sites of their own. Still, some proprietors said they felt unfairly singled out. “What pisses me off is that the regulation does not affect heterosexuals,” said Steven Vowels, manager at Flex. “They excluded all hotels, even crack hotels that rent by the hour.”
At the Slammer Club, signs were harder to read. Condoms were scarce, and unprotected sex occurred in unmonitored common rooms. The club did not respond to a later call inquiring about its policies. When asked about HIV testing, the clerk on duty (who seemed to know little about it) said, “You don’t want us sticking you with a needle.” But you might get stuck with something worse.