First: Mike Weinstein and the AIDS Health Foundation decided to up the ante a bit today by putting out an all out ad blitz, buying ad space in newspapers such as the LA Weekly, the LA Times, and others calling for the LA County Officials to permanently shut down any and all porn studios not mandating condoms on set. A copy of the AHF press release, produced by the BusinessWire.com website, follows:
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today launched an advertising and online e-advocacy campaign aimed at urging Dr. Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, to shut down Los Angeles-area adult film shoots that do not use condoms. An ad, appearing in today’s LA Weekly, lists the organizations that have come out in support of mandatory condom use in porn, including: Los Angeles Times, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association and the California STD Controllers Association.LA Weekly Ad and Online Campaign Launches Today; Supporters Asked to Contact Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of LA’s Dept. of Public Health, Urge Him to “Enforce Condom Use in Porn NOW!”“What Else Are You Waiting For to Protect the Public’s Health?” Asks AHF
The ad then poses the question to Dr. Fielding: “What else are you waiting for to protect the public’s health?” and directs viewers to call Dr. Fielding at his office (213) 240-8117 or to go to www.aidshealth.org to send an e-letter. In conjunction with the ad, AHF has also launched an online advocacy campaign asking the Foundation’s tens of thousands of e-community members to contact Dr. Fielding.
“AHF calls on Dr. Fielding to join the growing chorus of thought leaders and health organizations who support mandatory condom use in adult films, and shut down all non-condom porn shoots in the County,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Unfortunately, despite clear regulatory requirements and actions taken by public officials, the adult film industry remains convinced it is above the law and continues to place its own interests above the health of performers. Dr. Fielding and County Public Health have done little to address the fact that the health and safety of adult film workers are being placed in jeopardy on film sets throughout Los Angeles County every day. At this point, inaction on the part of the County can only be seen as disregard for the lives of the thousands of young people who work in the industry as well as the health of the public at large.”
Earlier this month, a motion introduced by L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl directed the City Attorney to report back in 45 days “to explain the mechanisms necessary to enable the City’s film permit process to require workplace safety in the production of all adult films.” The motion concludes: “The producers of adult films are required by California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5903 et seq. to employ barrier protection, including without limitation condoms, to shield performers from contact with potentially infectious material during the production of adult films. I THEREFORE MOVE that the City Council request the City Attorney to report back within 45 days to explain the mechanisms necessary to enable the City’s film permit process to require workplace safety in the production of all adult films.”
That action came on the heels of explosive news that L.A. health officials closed the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM)—a Sherman Oaks clinic funded by and serving the adult film industry—after California state officials denied AIM a community clinic license. The facility had been operating without a proper license for over a decade. AHF had called for County health officials to shut down the clinic after Derrick Burts, a 24 year-old adult film performer who tested HIV-positive on October 9th, spoke out regarding the poor treatment he received at AIM. Burts, who became known as the industry’s ‘Patient Zeta’ after the news first broke, spoke about the harsh treatment, neglect and indifference he experienced from AIM officials after his diagnosis, and he also championed the use of condoms in all adult film productions to prevent STD and HIV transmission among performers.Of course, the AHF press release blissfully ignores the fact that it was the California Department of Pulbic Health, not LACHS, who denied AIM the license, and that it was only temporary due to a syntatical error involving the official name of the organization.
STDs in the Industry in Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health is aware of an ongoing and pervasive sexually transmitted disease crisis in LA’s pornography industry, a fact that is well documented. DPH has cited numerous figures confirming an STD epidemic among performers in adult films, including the fact that performers in hardcore pornography are ten times more likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease than members of the population at large.
According to figures cited by DPH, there were 2,013 documented cases of Chlamydia among LA porn performers between 2003 and 2007. In the same period, 965 cases of gonorrhea were documented. Many performers suffer multiple infections. In the period April 2004 to March 2008 there have been 2,847 STD infections diagnosed among 1,884 performers in the hardcore industry in LA County. DPH attributes the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the porn industry to a lack of protective equipment for partners, including condoms. The agency recommends condoms be used during production, but has never taken steps to ensure their use, or to protect the performers who are essentially required to endanger their health in order to remain employed.
“This is not just about one industry, but about our entire community, as the spread of disease among adult film performers endangers themselves as well as their sexual partners in and outside the industry,” added AHF’s Weinstein. “Los Angeles County Public Health officials cannot keep passing the buck on this by playing ping pong on this with the state and the industry itself. That is why we are calling on Dr. Fielding to take action now to protect adult film industry workers and the public at large by shutting down all non-condom porn sets immediately.”
And, it just as blissfully ignores the basic fact that Derrick Burts, the aformentioned "Patient Zeta" of last October's HIV scare, was found to be the only performer who tested positive for HIV, and had even admitted that he contracted the virus through acts outside of the industry.
Then again, since when did facts get in the way of a polically and financially motivated witchhunt?
Fortunately, there are people beginning to expose the sham for the power grab it is.
Strangely enough, the LA Daily News today posted an editorial on the issue which not only defended AIM's right of existence, but also came down pretty hard on the attempts of LACHS and AHF to browbeat industry performers in order to shove condoms (and dental dams, and other more primitive means of "protection") dowm their throats. The editorial, reposted to XBiz.com, follows:
Straight society has a hard time dealing with the porn industry. On the one hand, it doesn't want to legitimize the business or the adult film actors in any way. On the other hand, it wants the industry and workers to conform to strict — and restrictive — rules and standards.
And, if there were another hand, on it would be the millions of customers who keep adult movies in high demand and the source of one of the San Fernando Valley's most profitable enterprises.
This societal schizophrenia is exhibited in the hopefully temporary closure earlier this month of one of the industry's most important health centers — AIM, or the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation. The Sherman Oaks-based clinic is the main screener of sexually transmitted diseases for adult film workers. It also acts as an advocate for an industry that others consider untouchable.
Citing what sounds like extremely minor paperwork violations, state public health officials ordered AIM to close on Dec. 9, the day after an adult film star announced publicly that he was treated poorly at the clinic after he tested positive for HIV in October and didn't get treatment as fast as he could.
In fact, it appears just ammunition in the long-standing feud between Los Angeles County Public Health officials and AIDS activists and AIM and its co-founder Sharon Mitchell over the issue of condoms in adult films. State law requires that adult film stars use condoms, but many performers eschew them. While AIM supplies free condoms, it focuses on testing performers as opposed to enforcing condom rules.And on another front....former porn performer Julie Meadows (aka in real life Lydia Lee) has been one of the leading advocates for performer choice and against the heavy handedness and hypocrisy of the condom mandate movement. Today, Julie and fellow activist Michael Whiteacre teamed up to promote an upcoming expose featuring the firebreathing fundamentalist rhetoric of one of their principal spokespeople: former performer turned fundamentalist Christian activist Shelley Lubben. A clip from that expose is now available at Whiteacres's YouTube page and also at Julie's blog...but I will post a copy of that clip here as well.
Mitchell, a former porn star herself, sees the closure as a conspiracy. But there's been nothing secret about how she and AIM have been targeted. After AIM was shut down, for example, Michael Weinstein, the executive director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a provider of medical treatment for AIDS and HIV patients, made it clear his goal is getting the adult film industry shut down if it doesn't use condoms.
While his concern about the spread of AIDS and HIV is admirable, he's misguided if he thinks persecuting AIM or adult film actors will make the public safer. It's likely to have the opposite effect.
AIM provides important support for adult film stars. AIM tests about 1,500 clients a month. And some have said that if AIM didn't do these screenings, they probably wouldn't happen. In fact, losing centers like AIM will likely force adult film production underground or to other states, endangering workers and public health even further.
If the county and other health officials truly care about public health, and not just punishing an organization that won't do what they want it to, they will find a way to work with AIM and the people engaged in this risky business, and not against them.
And...you might recognize that crafty man testifying about the hypocrisy of the mostly pro-gay rights AHF teaming up with the rabidly anti-gay Lubben...but I'm not giving any hints.