San Francisco was forced to delay closing bathhouses in 1984. Quote from the article, "More than 500 of the 3,899 Americans with AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, live in the San Francisco area and 95% of AIDS victims are gay men". It was under 4,000 AIDS sufferers in 1984, yet the modern media wants to spin it as Reagan's inaction causing the disease to spread. Later in the AP Wire article, the gay advocate cited that closing the bathhouses was just a ploy to push "homophobic political agendas" and another said constitutional issues were involved. In October of 1984, San Francisco was back at it ordering bathhouses closed. The bathhouse operators mentioned the need for legal process and order to prove this was a problem. Bathhouses said they served a gay need and would have closed if they thought they enabled the spread of AIDS. In 1985, New York sought to close bathhouses and gay public spaces with bathhouse owners saying they would fight efforts to shut them down. A dramatization of this early conflict is in one scene of the great HBO adaptation of And The Band Played On. Despite knowing the gay community was hit hard and gay sex was a transmission mechanism, the idea of stopping random, anonymous sex arenas was too much for gays to handle.
This might be harsh because it was 1984, so it was early in the HIV-AIDS scare. The media might not forgive Reagan for avoiding talking about 4000 gay men with AIDS, but the gays can be forgiven for their actions in 1984. What about 1988? If you were like me, you were a rural white kid being told by the TV newscasters and teachers that just like adorable Ryan White (hemophiliac), you too could get HIV-AIDS. This was the leading edge of the HIV-AIDS scare. In 1988, the bathhouses of Los Angeles were still fighting closures. From the LA Times,
The private rooms at Mac's Bathhouse in Silver Lake are a hot ticket on Saturday nights. Well-dressed men with gym bags start arriving at the labyrinth-like club before sunset, and by early evening a "No Vacancy" sign dangles beneath a stern AIDS warning posted on the cashier's window, signaling that the 50 personal cubicles are taken.
Those who come later are forced to accept semi-private accommodations. As they trade their street clothes for towels and settle into bunk beds, steam rooms and each other's arms, a gay pornographic movie plays silently on a television and an empty Jacuzzi burbles near the rounded walkway known as the tunnel of love.
"We all have lots of friends who have died of AIDS," said Myers, 53, a mild-mannered former beautician with a life-sized photo of a nude man on his office wall. "If we thought we were part of the problem, we could not look in the mirror. But we're not."
One of them is John O'Brien, a 39-year-old bathhouse patron. O'Brien said he supports the argument that the baths actually promote safe sex practices and are preferable to other meeting places such as alleys, parks and drive-in movies. He also accuses bathhouse opponents of making a morality play in the guise of a health issue.
"I have been an activist for 20 years and I see this as an important issue of sexual freedom," O'Brien said. "Liberace never went to the baths. The large majority of people at bathhouses are having safe sex. But I also support people's right to have unsafe sex. "