In the adult entertainment world, Sharon Mitchell is known as the driving force behind creating industry standards for HIV testing among performers.
But for the last year, she believes she has become a target by a nonprofit AIDS organization and the county health department who, she says, want to see her Sherman Oaks health center shut down.
“I really can’t stress enough that this has been a conspiracy, and I don’t know if that’s the right word,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Daily News.
“We’ve functioned as a doctor’s office with no problems. We’ve had very few (HIV) positives in the adult film industry.”
Mitchell co-founded the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in 1998, a nonprofit that provides health care for performers and others in the primarily San Fernando Valley-based adult-entertainment industry. Because of her work, every adult film actor must have an HIV test every 30 days to perform.
Last week, the state Department of Public Health shut down AIM temporarily, saying it had been operating as a doctor’s office, but was “in fact, a medical clinic and therefore subject to more rigorous standards.”
A cease and desist letter issued by the state shows that AIM‘s application for license renewal was denied because it listed the name of the clinic rather than the name of the nonprofit, a fire safety inspection request was not provided, and it did not list a hospital where patients could transfer to if needed.
A state official said last week that inspectors were tipped off about the clinic in June.
The closure came a day after adult film actor Derrick Burts, 24, criticized AIM during a tearful press conference, saying clinic operators left him untreated for a month and a half after he tested positive for HIV.
The press conference was held by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit that has loudly advocated for mandatory condom use on adult film production sets.
In 2004, an HIV outbreak among a handful of actors prompted dozens of mostly San Fernando Valley-based production companies in the multibillion-dollar industry to shut down temporarily after actor Darren James tested positive for HIV. It also led to the quarantine of more than 50 people because of possible exposure.
Michael Weinstein, the executive director for AIDS Healthcare, has said regular monthly tests are not enough to keep porn actors safe. In addition, he has said that Mitchell has not reported HIV results in a timely manner.
Mitchell said she found Burts‘ accusations unfounded and possibly prodded by Weinstein.
“We have nothing to hide,” Mitchell said. “We are not in this for politics. We follow up with HIV reporting consistently and regularly.”