An out San Francisco supervisor has introduced legislation that could pave the way for the return of gay bathhouses to the city.

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced his legislation on Tuesday at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The legislation would roll back rules established at the height of the AIDS epidemic prohibiting private rooms in bathhouses and sex venues and requiring such establishments to monitor the sexual activities of patrons.

“Our current regulations for adult sex venues were put in place as an emergency measure at the height of the AIDS crisis when San Francisco was desperate to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Mandelman in a statement. “Decades later, with the emergence of PrEP and in light of San Francisco’s reduction in HIV diagnoses to under 200 for the first time since the 1980’s, these regulations – including a ban on private rooms and required monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities – have no public health rationale and need to be changed.”

The city targeted bathhouse owners and labeled them a public health nuisance in a lawsuit filed in 1984. The legal action led to the adoption of minimum standards by the Department of Public Health that are still in effect today. While the bathhouses were allowed to remain open on the condition that they monitor for unsafe sex and remove the doors from rooms, all of them closed.

San Francisco, which reported the first case of AIDS in the country in 1980, has seen a dramatic decline in HIV infections (below 200 for the first time in 2018), leading LGBT activists to argue that the current regulations unfairly target gay men and that bathhouses can be used to promote safer sex education.

“When properly operated, by providing access to safer sex educational materials and supplies and HIV and STD testing, these venues assist rather than impede our efforts to control the transmission of HIV,” said Mandelman, who represents the Castro District. “I hope that this ordinance will support our efforts to get to zero new HIV infections and will put a bookend on a painful chapter in the history of the queer community in San Francisco.”

According to The Bay Area Reporter, no operator has proposed opening a bathhouse in San Francisco.