Gay Bathhouse HIV Prevention: the Use of Staff Monitoring of Patron Sexual Behavior
Many HIV prevention interventions have been launched in gay bathhouses and sex clubs since the onset of the AIDS epidemic, such as condom distribution and HIV testing. Perhaps none of these are as intrusive to the venue's environment as what is called “monitoring,” which involves staff, during every shift, repeatedly walking throughout the public areas of a bathhouse to check on patrons’ sexual behavior. Yet, monitoring has received little evaluation. Between 2002 and 2004, we conducted qualitative interviews with venue managers, staff, and patrons in New York City, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. An analysis found that monitoring was influenced by the kinds of space available for sex, suggesting three approaches to monitoring: (1) monitoring all sex in clubs that only had public areas where men had sex, (2) monitoring some sex in clubs with private rooms for sex, and (3) no monitoring of sex, regardless of the kinds of space for sex.