During the 1980s AIDS crisis, many American all-male bathhouses, especially those in San Francisco, shut down or were forcibly closed in an effort to control the epidemic by eliminating what has long been viewed as an opportunity for illicit and often high-risk sex and drug use.
In Los Angeles, however, bathhouses remained open but with new regulations: in order to operate legally, the venues had to provide testing for HIV and patrons were supposed to use condoms during all sexual encounters. However, a 2003 study by the Los Angeles County Health Department still found that more than 10% of men surveyed had engaged in unprotected sex in the bathhouses.
In a groundbreaking new partnership, national bathhouse chain FLEX Spas has teamed up with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization in the United States, to help bolster its safety standards and protect the public health of its patrons. The Foundation has already begun providing free condoms to the spa locations in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Cleveland, and beginning October 18 will also provide additional HIV testing to support the mandated testing access the spas already provide.
AHF will also offer testing for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as promotional items and safer sex education materials, in the coming months. Additionally, the nonprofit will partner with FLEX Spas to provide condoms at the upcoming Atlanta Pride celebration on October 12 and 13.