Ernest Greene: In Defense of AIM

Apr 02, 2011 • Culture, Porn Valley, Sex Industry

Ernest Greene speaks on the AIM leaks.

In response to the developing story of Adult Industry Medical’s leak of some 15,000 adult performers’ real names and addresses, director and editor of Taboo magazine Ernest Greene speaks out. The following post first appeared as a response to our editrix on Fetlife and is reproduced here with permission:

Full disclosure first. I’m a board chairman emeritus (seven terms beginning with its creation) of the AIM clinic and might be said to have a dog in the fight, as AIM has been fighting off dogs of one sort or another since day one. I should also disclose that since AIM, in response to persistent nuisance litigation from a competing organization [Editrix’s note: AIDS Healthcare Foundation], surrendered its non-profit status and became a commercial clinic, I have had no direct affiliation with it. However, I remain a strong supporter of AIM’s work and its mission and feel it has been unfairly tarred in this mess.

First of all, though it seems to have been universally agreed that AIM is the source of the leaked data (or so the lovely folks at AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the competitor that’s been trying to get AIM’s testing franchise for itself for years) would have you believe, there is much information on the leak site that was never in the AIM database and was therefore obtained from other sources. That said, there is no doubt that much of what has been compromised came from AIM’s database but that is not a result of weak security, but rather an inevitable risk associated with AIM’s functions.

Not only does AIM provide state-of-the-art PCR-DNA testing for HIV infection, along with testing and treatment for other STIs, it monitors the test status of all performers who agree by signing a limited waiver of medical privacy rights and makes test results data available to participating video producers and directors via a code-accessible computer database.

This enables producers, directors and fellow performers to log on to the database from remote locations and verify that performers have clean, current tests. The value of this methodology speaks for itself in public health statistics. Since AIM initiated its voluntary but universally observed testing and monitoring program ten years ago, there have been a total of four documented cases of workplace HIV transmission in the porn industry. To put that in perspective, Los Angeles County typically records approximately 2,600 new transmissions in the metropolitan area overall each year.

The information in AIM’s database doesn’t have to be hacked because it isn’t encrypted in the first place. Anyone participating in the monitoring program can access it using a code issued by the clinic at the time the participating party signs on, and agrees to strict terms regarding third-party disclosure. There is reason to believe that the leaks originate with an embittered, failed performer/director who has been conducting a one-man vendetta against the industry since he finally gave up trying to eke out a living from it. Unfortunately, his access to the database, though not his misuse of the information from it, was probably via a legitimate log-on.

AIM has long understood, and warns performers in a detailed form they’re required to read, initial in several places and sign before their information can be posted on the system, that there are risks involving individual privacy built into the system. However, the industry as a whole has, for ten years, broadly accepted those risks as preferable to the risks of being unable to verify the test results of performers before they work together.

This is not an issue of recklessness on AIM’s part, but rather of pure malice on the part of a single individual who gained the information he’s now spewing for his ugly personal purposes by the same means available to the industry as a whole. AIM’s position is that preventing the spread of potentially deadly infections is a higher priority for industry professionals than the level of confidentiality enjoyed by private citizens testing through their own physicians or non-industry-affiliated clinics. That is a trade-off accepted by everyone who signs onto the monitoring program, which is to say every working performer in the business and the vast majority of those who hire them.

AIM comes in for relentless bashing from Mike South, who is an “industry insider” only by his own definition and has a long-time grudge against AIM that he airs at every opportunity, and a small but noisy group of detractors with agendas of their own regarding the porn industry that AIM’s extraordinary record of successfully preventing workplace HIV exposures obstructs. They have already seized on this unfortunate incident to once again go after AIM, when it is guilty only of doing what it says it will and the real onus lies heavily upon the person who has taken it upon himself to compromise the security of people who were once his colleagues.

I’m not surprised, given the increasingly heated and complex politics of disease-hazard mitigation in porn currently roiling the industry, that this vile act has been appropriated as an excuse to yet again attack one of the most effective community-supported HIV prevention programs in the world by those who covet AIM’s credibility for their own attempts at seizing control of the testing and monitoring process for financial gain, but AIM is a victim in this matter, not a perpetrator. And if this despicable behavior results in a reluctance on the part of some performers to test and participate in the monitoring process, it endangers both them and the rest of the talent pool as a whole.

I sincerely hope that the responsible party will feel the full weight of the civil and criminal liabilities attaching to what has been done here. Loathsome is too kind a word to describe it.