Thursday, July 16, 2009

HIV-in-Porn "Outbreak" Update: Revenge of the Whiners

Seems like some people are kinda upset that the latest HIV porn "outbreak" in LA didn't quite turn out as planned. All that posturing and blustering about a major outbreak that would send in the regulators...and only ONE performer ends up confirmed as infected. (Not even the other performer who performed with Patient Zero ended up contracting the virus.)

Oh, but it must suck real bad to be a member of the chorus who was so sure that they were going to exploit the outbreak for their own political agenda of imposing draconian measures through the state of California.

So much so, in fact, that now they are attempting to force themselves on the health authorities anyway.

The story from XBiz.com:

LOS ANGELES — The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has filed suit against Los Angeles County public health officials, claiming they have not made any moves to require condom use on the porn set.

At the heart of the suit, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has asked Los Angeles Superior Court to order condom use or take other "reasonable steps" to put a crimp on the spread of disease.

County health officials, the foundation says, are obligated to carry out California's §120175, which essentially empowers officials to take action relative to the prevention or spread of communicable diseases.

Michael Weinstein, president of the Hollywood, Calif.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation — one of the largest community-based HIV/AIDS medical providers in the nation — told XBIZ last month that health officials “have been asleep at the switch with regard to monitoring HIV and STD prevention and testing in the region's porn industry.”

Weinstein also said that Los Angeles health officials are “afraid of the industry."

“The industry wraps itself in the 1st Amendment,” he said. “It has much too much power in the halls of Sacramento and the county defends them, or they just don't want to take responsibility.”

The suit is more than one month after revelations made clear that an adult film actress tested positive for HIV and county health officials released data that 18 HIV cases and more than 3,700 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been reported since 2004.

Those numbers were revealed by the AIM Healthcare Foundation, which monitors sexually transmitted diseases for the industry.
Ahhhh....actually, that last sentence isn't quite right, XBiz; those numbers were revealed by the Los Angeles Times in their attempt to smear the adult industry; AIM later rebutted them by informing that those numbers included mostly gay men who were infected with HIV outside of the hetero porn industry; plus private users not affiliated with porn whom had used AIM's testing services for their own purposes. Factoring in those caveats, the actual number of porn performers infected with HIV after the Darren James/Lara Roxx outbreak in 2004 is....exactly ONE. As in, Patient Zero from earlier this month.

While that was going on, I'm sure that plenty of "civilian" folks in LA were getting infected with STI's....a lot more than the one person who more than likely missed her regular testing period and got infected from outside. But, hey, can't let the truth get in the way of a good crusade, can't you, Mr. Weinstein??

Maybe your folks and the Durex condom company can get their paid employees to picket Larry Flynt's place again, ehhh???

Either way, it's going to be very interesting when and if they decide to enforce that code and attempt to enforce that law...I'm sure that the countersuits are already being planned.

I guess that Cali being broke isn't going to stop these fools, isn't it??

UPDATE: The AHF has just released a press release to the public announcing their lawsuit against the LA County health officials; I can't find the original link, but a copy is available through the Luke Is Back blog here. A press conference is scheduled for tommorow; I'm sure that Weinstein will be on his rant bigtime.


UPDATE #2: Amid all of the promotion of mandatory condom usage in porn, here is an article that attempts to bring some evenhandedness and context to the controversy. Monica Shores just posted over at the excellent blog Carnal Nation an essay that debunks the arguments for mandating condom use, and shows the hypocrisy of those who speak with one voice and behave the opposite.

[....] Everyone’s blogging about the best ways to combat the spread, speculating on what mistakes spurred such high numbers, discussing how to care for those already infected. The Internet’s on fire with HIV debate, alright, but only to the extent that it involves porn—because every aspect of the sex industry presents an exciting new way to be self-righteous and point fingers. That’s perhaps the most important point to keep in mind when examining the recent fracas; critics often seem to care less about HIV as it affects the general public and more about how it will allow them to criticize and police pornographers.

[....]

The line that consumers won’t buy porn made with condoms is by far the most common reason given by adult industry spokespeople when pressed to explain their lack of latex. Lux Alptraum wrote a strong indictment of consumers who criticize the choices of porn companies while supporting those same choices with their purchases, and she’s right that there’s a strong disconnect occurring between what Americans profess to care about and what values our behavior indicates. How can the call for mandatory condom use on adult film sets be so vociferous when we still allow our politicians to allocate massive amounts of tax dollars for abstinence-only education, an approach which often spreads lies about condom effectiveness? Why are we so eager to police the behavior of this select group of adults when we’re not even willing to provide our teenagers with the necessary information to choose condoms in their personal lives?

Sex workers are often the target of social anxiety about morality and disease, and this recent situation seems to be no different. While some individuals calling for increased condom use in porn films (Audacia Ray, for instance) are speaking out of genuine concern, much of this recent discussion reeks of hysteria and scapegoating. The LA Times was the first to report the claim that there had been 16 undisclosed cases within the adult industry, misinformation they retracted five days later with the explanation that those positive cases were of individuals who may not have been working in porn at the time. In this same article, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles county’s health officer, was quoted as saying “The system we have and the laws we have do not facilitate the kind of contact tracing and verification that we'd like to see.” This statement is ominous verging on terrifying for those who fear public exposure as an individual with HIV, or punitive action should they have worked while positive.

[....]

The adult industry, in addition to defending their current procedures, has pointed out that this push for more policing of the industry feels born out of the disregard with which the industry is held rather than an understanding of performers’ needs and OSHA’s capabilities. Thomas Roche painstakingly attempted to untangle all the he-said, she-said aspects of this drama, and after considerable legwork, arrived at the conclusion that this recent positive test result is not necessarily an indication of failure with the current AIM procedures.

Underneath the blaming and moralizing, there’s the crucial question of what workers themselves want, and why. Nina Hartley and Belladonna have both come out in support of testing and emphasized their desire to keep their sex scenes condom-free. They say that the friction from condoms during long filming periods decreases their desire, thereby affecting their performance, and more importantly, chafes and tears sensitive vaginal tissue.

The full article, which can be found here, is more than worth a read.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, well, as you'd expect, I have a few things to say about this, all of them sulfurous.

    First of all, AHF, whose work I have in the past admired, has been grandstanding all over this issue since 2004, and I don't think their motives have much to do with protecting the health of porn performers.

    I suspect the real concern, which the ever more truculent AHF head Michael Weinstein has made much of in previous comments, is what his organization sees as the "bad example" non-condom porn sets for the general public. After calling it "a poster child for het HIV transmission" there can be little doubt regarding Weinstein's actual intentions, which revolve around turning het porn into one long pro-condom PSA for the benefit of audiences.

    I'm all for the general public practicing safer sex in various ways, but I'm against dragooning the porn industry into fronting that cause in the same way and for the same reasons I opposed strong-arming public education into teaching "abstinence only." Neither approach is effective and both share a common contempt for the ability of individuals to make their own decisions regarding their sex lives.

    That overheated rhetoric Weinstein employs to disguise his intentions behind the seemingly benign concern for the safety of sex performers is nicely exemplified by these statements at his most recent soiree for the press, which seems to love him almost as much as he covets their attention:

    "The experiment with self-regulation in the porn industry is a flop," Weinstein declared while launching his frivolous litigation against the country. "We believe the county has an obligation to shut down sets where condoms are not being used.
    We have a raging threat of infection, and nothing at all is being done."

    The only problem with all that is that it completely ignores the facts. If you want those, check out what AVN's Mark Kernes, who has done his typically admirable job of covering this latest flap, has to say over at AVN:

    http://business.avn.com/articles/35872.html

    Well, gee, it seems Mr. Weinstein has things a bit confused. First of all, there would appear to be no "raging threat" of STI infection among porn performers (and just how a "threat" can qualify as raging is a bit murky to begin with). AIM's statistics continue to show a much lower infection rate among performers than among the general population, despite the fact that mulitple testing by individuals skews AIM's numbers on the high side.

    And if the het industry's voluntary approach is such a flop and the all-condoms-no-testing regimen favored by gay porn producers is so effective, how do we come to have had a total of two HIV-related deaths in het porn over a 30 year period during which 103 gay male performers have died of AIDS?

    As for the lawsuit itself, Kernes neatly dismantles it. The agency being sued has no authority and no resources to do what Weinstein wants it to, though it dearly wishes for both, and there is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink aspect to the whole circus, which will result in more media coverage of the fact that L.A. county is helpless in the face of the menace, once the suit is dismissed in Round One, and renewed calls for sterner action by the state legislature.

    In short, this whole thing is a big, ugly publicity stunt cooked up by people who share the same lack of concern for performers and the same desire for state intervention in order to stampede a largely indifferent electorate into pressuring legislators for measures that the state can't possibly hope to put in place. Such legislation, as we've already discussed here at length, stands no chance of circumventing either the legal or fiscal obstacles in its way.

    At the end of the day, this is just more bullshit from the usual suspects. It won't change anything for the better.

    Lies never do.

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