Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Memo To Michael Weinstein: You Wrote The Check...Now Let's See If Your Ass Can Back It Up This Time. The PrEP Controversy That Could Finally Nail His Coffin

[Updated below: scroll to bottom.]

It seems that Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation decided to shoot off his mouth again, and now he's about to swallow it with his foot. Except, he might want to protect his ass from the feet of others wanting to bust it and the rest of his body.

It's more than enough that his condom mandate campaign against the LA porn industry has alienated him with plenty of people..but now, he's gone and done something that only a professional asshole can do: he's pissed off his own damn base of support.

Some background here: the diaspora of the gay male community in San Francisco and beyond is raving about the latest treatments now being offered for those infected with HIV, as well as those active gay men who want to avoid getting infected with HIV to begin with. One of the most recent and most promising treatments involves the drug Truvada, which acts as what is called a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in that it acts to block the HIV virus from infecting a person who uses it. Understand that Truvada is NOT a vaccine that totally prevents HIV transmission forever; it simply works to temporarily prevent infection. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 as an HIV treatment; and in 2012, the pharmaceutial Gilead Science won approval to market and sell it to the public.

Proponents of Truvada and other PrEP treatments say that they can be an alternative to the more traditional forms of barrier protection, such as condoms, that have been advocated as HIV protection for the gay male community ever since the height of the AIDS pandemic during the 1980's. Detractors, on the other hand, have questioned the effectiveness of Truvada, as well as defending the reliance on condoms as a form of protection along with conservative behavior modification for those most vulnerable to infection.

Of course, "conservative behavior modification" is exactly what Michael Weinstein is all about, and what has allowed AHF to elevate both their outreach and their financial vaults to become the world's largest non-govermental service provider for HIV/AIDS.

And, he's not too shy to point that out, either: in 2007, he and AHF essentially shook down Pfizer, the manufacturers of the popular erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, claiming that their ads back then for the drug promoted "sexual promiscuity" and "unsafe sex". And, of course, I don't even need to reset Weinstein's motivation for pushing condoms on porn performers.

So, naturally, Weinstein and AHF have been one of, if not THE, loudest critics of Truvada and PrEF treatments as a basic threat to his "condoms only" empire: and in an interview with the Associated Press last week, he went after proponents in his own typical fashion.

Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, recently described Truvada as a “party drug” in an interview with the Associated Press. (Weinstein’s full quote was: “If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that. Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.”)
The "party drug" smack is a thinly-veiled allusion to the alleged abuse of GHB (aka, the "date rape" drug) and crystal meth among young gay men; but mostly, it's Weinstein's preferred means of citiing "out of control" sexuality as a justification for his campaigns to reign in the "excesses" of gay men (and porn performers) through condoms as a means of throttling sexual activity.

But, it seems, that Weinstein has bitten off just a bit too much of that apple...because there are plenty of other gay male health activists and gay men who are not at all pleased with his messianic need to control their sexuality. And, his statement against Truvada seems to be the final straw.

One of such men is Michael Lucas, the director of the gay male porn production shop Lucas Entertainment (and also, naturally, an opponent of Weinstein's condom mandate campaigns); he posted an Op-Ed to Out Magazine's website calling out Weinstein's "dangerous" rhetoric...and then calling for something else: his resignation from AHF. Some snippage:

Mr. Weinstein knows how to portray PrEP, along with gay men, in the most unattractive light. This month he told the Associated Press, ”Let’s be honest: It’s [Truvada] a party drug.” In Mr. Weinsteing’s eyes, PrEP isn’t about public health. It’s just a highly expensive way for those horny, irresponsible gays to go back to their barebacking-gone-wild.

It would be one thing if this were a talking point of a crackpot on The 700 Club. Hell, Mr. Weinstein’s words could be adapted nicely for a poster for the Westboro Baptist Church. But this man, who earns, according the LA Times, around $390,000 per year, leads an organization that’s the largest provider of HIV/AIDS services in the United States. Yet his views are so out of line with scientific reality that, before approving PrEP, the head of the Centers for Disease Control refused to even meet with him.

[....]

In this man’s prurient imagination, gays are too busy enjoying their bareback orgies to be trusted with taking a once-daily pill. In his view, gay men using PrEP will stir up a frothy new drug-resistant strain of the virus. What evidence exists that this is a valid scientific concern? None. He has not even credited the fact that this form of prevention might and is being used by responsible gay men regardless of the sexual activity they are engaged in. Mr. Weisnstein’s anti-PrEP position is an extension of his long-standing anti-promiscuity crusade and more importantly his continuation of harmful shame tactics.

It’s now time to for our community to fight back against his shame-on-us rhetoric. It’s time for us to fight back and say, “shame on him.”

As the issue of cost of PrEP, and whether it should be deployed to prevent young people from becoming infected, becomes an important national issue, we need to take Mr. Weinstein and his radical rhetoric out of the national conversation.

He needs to be removed from his post at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Immediately.
 And some others are taking that last sentence of Lucas literally.  Eric Leue, described as "Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2014" in his bio; went so far as to launch a signing petition at Change.org calling for AHF to remove Weinstein from their directorship.  The petition has reached 1,500 signatures as of right now, reflecting the blowback from a sizable portion of the gay community to Weinstein's tactics and sex-shaming. More snippage from the petition:

This petition is not about how Weinstein or we personally feel about HIV PrEP. This petition is about whether we, the people, should be allowed access to accurate information, free of stigma and discrimination. Since 1980, HIV and its prevention has been framed in moral terms, and the people carrying the virus blamed. The head of our largest AIDS service organization should know that HIV prevention is not “a party.”
With our signatures to remove Michael Weinstein as CEO and President of the AHF, we encourage the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to reconnect with the public to be able to continue their important work hand in hand with the communities they serve.
The petition is also being endorsed and signed by many in the mainstream porn community who are just as fed up with the same sex-shaming and authoritarianism. (See the Twitter hashtag #RemoveWeinstein.)

Whether removing Weinstein from AHF will force a change in their policy is probably unclear, but the point is that he has become his own worst enemy, by driving AHF away from its core philosophy of healthcare service, and into his own myopic drive for personal power and money.

We at BPPA strongly recommend and heartily endorse this petition, and hope that you go and sign it as well.

(Note by Anthony: I already have.)

Link to Petition for Michael Weinstein's removal from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (Change.org)



UPDATE (4-18-14):  Well, anyone who thought that Michael Weinstein would bow down to public opinion would be surely disappointed by his reaction to the turmoil. In an interview with BuzzFeed, he doubled and quadrupled down on his anti-Truvada "party drug" smack, even going as far as associating his critics with "the bareback porn industry".

Some brief snippage from BuzzFeed:
“I’ve had debates on this subject, but these people are jumping to character assassination and I’m not going to respond to it,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest HIV/AIDS medical care provider in the U.S. “My record and the record of AHF speaks for itself.”

[....]

Weinstein, who has long been a critic of the blue pill, has no intentions of stepping aside or quieting down and blames much of the backlash he’s received on what he said is the “bareback porn industry.” Michael Lucas, creator of one of the largest gay porn companies, Lucas Entertainment, also called for Weinstein to leave his job in an op-ed published by Out magazine.

“In the last few days in terms of the people who have been yelling the loudest about this, they’ve all been associated with bareback porn,” he said. “They’re all associated with bareback porn, which kind of makes my point that it’s a party drug.”
The BuzzFeed article also gauges reaction from many AIDS prevention activists not at all pleased with Weinstein's position.
“Comments like that of Michael Weinstein really devalue and diminish decades of research and the opinions of experts the world over that would very much disagree with his characterization,” said Jim Pickett, director of Prevention Advocacy and Gay Men’s Health at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “The idea that [Truvada] is simply some party drug on par with crystal meth or ecstasy is really ridiculous and insulting.”

The point of conflict seems to be questions about the effectiveness of Truvada as opposed to condoms and whether or not those using it as PrEP will adhere to its prescriptions.

Proponents of the drug point to studies showing massive reductions in HIV transmissions in cases where the drug was taken daily. But Weinstein, and other Truvada critics, question the drug’s ability to be effective because patients are unlikely to adhere to the daily regimen. A factor in this could be the drug’s high cost — about $13,000 per year — although many insurance plans and Medicaid cover prescriptions.

Additionally, Truvada, unlike condoms, will also do nothing to protect people from other sexually-transmitted diseases such as syphilis, herpes, and gonorrhea, Weinstein said.

Of course, that ignores the fact that condoms cannot prevent infection where sores are exposed and barrier protection can't reach.

“The primary issue with Truvada is that in the perfect world if people took it every day they would be protected, but that is not the case,” he said. “I read over and over again articles talking about how it’s more than 90% effective and they don’t even mention the adherence issue. PrEP is just not 90%-plus effective in the real world. It’s just not ready for prime time as a public health strategy.”

Translation: It really screws up his "condoms rule the world" profit streams. Yes, AHF does in fact market and brand condoms under their label. Ask Michael Whiteacre and his wife Christina Parriera.
Or, just ask the Las Vegas chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), who just decided to sign a marketing agreement with AHF to promote their condoms in exchange for "publicity".
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, medical director of the ambulatory HIV program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said he is a prescriber of Truvada, telling BuzzFeed, “I don’t see it as a party drug at all.” Daskalakis also sits on the board of Gay Mens Health Crisis, one of the nation’s top HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy organizations. He was also part of the FDA panel that approved Truvada for PrEP.

“The guys I’m giving Truvada to and some women, have a lot of good reasons to take it,” Daskalakis told BuzzFeed. “If being in a sexual relationship with someone who is HIV-positive is a party, then Truvada is a party drug.”

Daskalakis and Pickett are among critics of Weinstein’s comments who think likening Truvada to a “party drug” is judgmental of behavior and detracts from what HIV/AIDS advocates aim to do: prevent HIV, Daskalakis said. Pickett said it equates to “shaming” and “the paternalism and the infantilization of gay men.”
Essentially, that is the heart of the issue: imposing a sexually conservative agenda in the name of "protection", while denying gay men (or, in the case of the porn condom mandate, porn performers) the right of choice on how they can best protect themselves.

Obviously, this debate won't be resolved any time soon. We'll just have to see if Weinstein pays the cost for his mouth shooting off.






Monday, April 7, 2014

AB1576's Rediscovery Of Testing: A Move Forward Or A Trap Door??

Of all of the developments involving Isadore Hall's recent bill, AB1576, to force condoms and other "barrier protections" in all porn shoots, the most interesting is their evolution involving performer testing.

In the past, the party line expressed by Hall and his mentors at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation was that testing, especially the testing regime currently used by the industry, was an utter failure that did nothing to protect the performers from STI's, including HIV, and that mandatory condom usage was the only tried and true solution.

However, with this latest effort, it seems that Hall and AHF have warmed up to the notion of mandatory testing, to the point that his current effort now includes a requirement that performers prove that they were tested no less than 14 days prior to shooting a scene, along with proof of using "barrier" protection.

Seems like Hall and AHF is reaching out to FSCPASS and meeting them halfway, right??

Not so fast. The car might look new, but a check under the hood for the actual details support a different, less altruistic agenda.

Keep in mind that the 14 day testing protocol is voluntary for porn studios. Most, due to cost considerations, can't afford a 14-day test, and instead go for 28 or 30 day cleared tests to allow their performers to shoot, along with varying degrees of condom protection. Some are condom only (such as Wicked and VIVID), and some are more optional, leaving that choice to the performer or producer.

AB1576, however, would force studios to undergo and pay for mandatory 14 day tests on nearly all of the standard STI's (HIV, Hepatitis A/B/C, HPV, chlamydia, gonnorhea, and syphilis), as well as require they use condoms, dental dams, and all other forms of barrier protection. Sure, Hall and AHF say that they only would require condoms; but they rely on the emerging CalOSHA standards for "bloodborne/sexually transmitted pathogen" protection, which does require the use of "personal protection equipment" as a form of "barrier protection". The CalOSHA standards would also forbid any proximity of sexually oriented body fluids to unwrapped "sensitive areas" such as the mouth, genitals, or anus..which would forbid facials, body shots above the navel and below the knee, and even perhaps oral sex without "protection".

The record keeping requirement that producers and studios keep and make accessible to health officials personal medical records of all performers depicting their test results and the degree of protection used in their scenes is already enough of a constitutional and personal privacy nightmare.

But that's not even the worst part of the proposal. The real devil in the details is in the type of testing for HIV that AB1576 would require, and how that could potentially backfire in a catastropic way.

Remember that the PASS standards use the most current and accurate HIV tests available at a cost....namely, the Aptima test, which is capable of catching the HIV virus within 6-10 days of initial infection. It has become the gold standard of rapid testing for screening out cases of acute HIV infection, a point that is vital with preventing the spread of the virus to other performers.

Problem is, though, Aptima is NOT the standard that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or AHF uses for their HIV tests. They prefer to use the old and true ELISA antibody tests for initial screening, backed by viral load testing such as PCR-RNA or Western Blot for confirmation of a positive.

The problem with that is that antibody and antigen testing for HIV is notorious for not catching acute HIV cases, and have nearly a 60-90 day latency period where the virus can remain undetected. Now, no one doubts the accuracy of antibody testing for detecting HIV antibodies; but when you are trying to isolate acute cases before they spread to others, especially when it comes to shooting sex scenes that can go on for hours on end, having to wait 60-90 days for a positive or negative confirmation of getting infected isn't just a nightmare for the performer awaiting his fate; it's money out of his wallet.

Not to mention, the required moratoriums that force general work stoppages while testing of first- and second-generation screen partners of any potential infectee can cause serious impacts on performers and studios alike. I know of a model who was burned by the two back-to-back moratoriums while attempting to travel from Florida to California to shoot scenes; she now draws the line at performing only with condoms. (Out of respect for her privacy, I will not name her.)

The trap door, though, is this: AB1576 does not require performers or producers to get the latest and best testing for HIV, it simply states that they be tested under the guidelines set forth by CalOSHA and the CDC...guidelines that assume testing through ELISA-based assays.

Do you see the ultimate result here?? Studios not wealthy enough to afford the 14-day testing regime (i.e., those not owned by MindGeek) and overwhelmed by the requirement of full documentation of their testing regimens, would be the most likely to cave in to AHF's demands for mandatory condoms as a "fall back" in compliance with the potential law...and they would also be the most likely to cut corners for profits by offering their performers fly-by-night testing scams. Like, for instance, the quick and free OraSure OraQuick HIV swab tests made so famous by Mike South in his latest escapades.

Or, a fledgling porn producer could simply borrow some of South's mythical powers of reasoning and interviewing to clear a performer for shooting scenes, without all that need for actual testing.

Or...scared performers could just pull a Mr. Marcus and fake their tests in order to continue to shoot films and make money, because condoms would save them. Except, that they break, and they don't protect against all STI's.

Thusly, AHF and Izzy Hall create a wonderful illusion of safety, that covers up a free fire zone for performers. The big studios who will more than likely keep 14-day mandatory testing, but also be forced to include condoms, will survive as usual...though some will probably react by moving their businesses out of California altogether and taking their chances going underground in a less protected venue. The condom companies will get free placement and unwilling users, and will drown in the cash of respectability for "making safer sex hot". The medicos will fulfill their promise of using porn performers as unwitting guniea pigs for "safer sex". And, the communitarians will have one more piece of government regulation as a means of "behavior modification" and controlling a suspect population.

Whether this will actually do anything to reduce the pandemic of HIV or other STI's in the general population, or merely force performers into much less safe venues to fulfill their craft, or simply force them to quit and take their chances with less sexy exploitation, remains to be seen. Needless to say, considering how the current "sex trafficking" scare is now being used to suppress and slander sex workers and their clients, I have my doubts.

Sorry, Assemblyman Hall and Mr. Weinstein, but I'd much rather that performers themselves have the choice of how best to protect themselves, not be the unwilling and forced participants in a shell game.

AB1576, like all the other condom mandate bills before it, needs to be defeated. Like, yesterday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mike South: Proudly Spreading Ignorance About STI Testing In Porn Since 2003 (Pwnage By Sharon Mitchell And AIM, via AVN)

It's one thing to be deliberately obtuse and out-to-lunch about something as important as a person's health. It's another thing entirely to maintain that ignorance for an extended time.

You all know by now of the exposure to bright sunlight of the recent travails of Mike South, part-time porn producer/director/webminister, and full time gadfly/critic of the LA porn industry and its testing system for STI's.

Michael Whiteacre of The Real Porn Wikileaks has been running a series over there revealing South as a grand hypocrite who mocks LA producers for not forcing condoms down their perfomers throats and not universally testing them for every single infective threat, while he relies on oral swab tests, no condoms, and his own "common sense"/ESP/Spider-Man senses/boner blood as his own screenage against STI's and HIV.

As it turns out, though, South's "expertese" in HIV testing goes a long way back...like even before the initial Darren James/Lara Roxx outbreak hit in 2004. And, the need for real experts to correct his errors go back just as far, too.

The following is a repost of an article that was posted to AVN.com back in June of 2003, where AIM Medical Foundation director Sharon Mitchell responds point-for-point to some comments Mike South made at his blog the weekend before. South was responding to a viewer/reader asking questions about the testing regime used back then; and apparently, the answers he gave didn't quite tell the whole story.

You will note, of course, that the PCR-DNA test that was the gold standard back then has now been itself upended by the Aptima test, which further cuts the latency period down from 14-30 days to 6-10 days. Also, the "protease inhibitors" that used to cloak HIV+ readings for viral load or antibody tests do not affect DNA-based tests or Aptima; and neither do the more recent "retroviral" drugs now used today as treatment for HIV+ people. Other than those caveats, what was said then is as much true today.

I will simply reprint the article in its entirity; the original can be found by clicking the title.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Who's At Risk For HIV — And How Do You Know? Mitchell Answers South


Over the weekend, Mike South, a producer/director in the adult video business and Internet columnist, answered a question from a reader who asked him to explain the differences between the RT-PCR/PCR-DNA test(s) and the ELISA test. Since AVN is in the process of preparing a series of articles on healthcare within the adult industry, we asked AIM Healthcare Foundation executive director Sharon Mitchell to comment on South's answer to his correspondent's questions. What follows are South's answer, broken into its component parts, and Mitchell's comments on each part, with some amplification questions from AVN Senior Editor Mark Kernes: 
 
Mike South: The Viral load tests measure the amount of virus in a blood sample by one of two methods. The first, the PCR is a process by which the RNA is chemically treated to cause it to replicate itself, the idea is to induce replication to a high level, then measure that level knowing that the replication factor is a constant. This is called an indirect test because it indirectly measures the amount of RNA in the sample. 
 
Sharon Mitchell: That's a PCR-RNA test. 
 
South: The second called bDNA, this is a direct measurement of the RNA. The sample is treated to induce the RNA to lumenesce [sic] or "glow" the amount of light given off indicates how much virus is present. 
 
Mitchell: That's a branch DNA test, which is a form of an RNA test. It's still a viral load test. We do neither the bDNA nor the RT-RNA. We do PCR-DNA. 
 
Mark Kernes: When Mike South says, "RT-PCR," that's incomplete? It has to say either RT-PCR-DNA or RT-PCR-RNA?
 
Mitchell: That's correct, and we do the PCR-DNA, not the PCR-RNA.
 
South: The problem with these tests is that they are only accurate to about forty parts per million, below that point the virus is undetectable. Someone who has HIV and has been on protease inhibitor drugs can fall well below this level and the tests determine them to be HIV Negative which they clearly are not. They are also most certainly still capable of passing on the virus to someone else. 
 
Mitchell: That's all correct, bearing in mind that "forty parts per million" is equivalent of 400 copies per milliliter [see below], but it refers to the PCR-RNA test. 
 
South: The ELISA test tests for antibodies to the virus to be present in your system, even though you may show no signs of illness 95% of all people will develope [sic] antibodies to HIV within 3 weeks of exposure.
 
Mitchell: No, no. In fact, some people can go without developing antibodies for six weeks to six months, and while six weeks may be great for the general population, it's not good for people having multiple partners in porn. And remember, we are using monitoring. We're not looking for a one guy/one time diagnosis here; we're looking for monitoring based on every 30 days by PCR-DNA — not RNA, not viral loads. That's why USA Referral [a testing referral service] is not a good facility for that very reason. 
 
Kernes: So the first time someone came into you, if you gave them an ELISA test and it showed negative, they could actually have been HIV positive for up to six months and you would not necessarily be able to see it on the ELISA test? 
 
Mitchell: Yes. That's why we don't use the ELISA test. 
 
South: This "window period" is in reality no worse than that of the PCR tests, and may even prove better in some cases. 
 
Kernes: He's talking about the PCR-RNA test, apparently.
 
Mitchell: Right, I know, and this is all relevant to PCR-RNA, but we don't do PCR-RNA. We can't afford to wait for the window periods of an ELISA or RNA. 
 
Kernes: So an ELISA test and a PCR-RNA are really about the same in the sense — 
 
Mitchell: No. One's an antibody test and one's a viral load test; they're two entirely different things, but they're not effective for this population when dealing with monitoring. 
 
Kernes: So if someone had HIV and was not taking protease inhibitors, and got an ELISA test and a PCR-RNA, which one would be likely to detect the virus first? 
 
Mitchell: Well, it depends. Now, remember, HIV is going to surge in the first 18-30 days, so if you're catching it early, HIV-RNA is going to show a sky-high viral load. But if we're not catching it early, there'll be some viral load and it will be relatively over 400 copies per milliliter, and that could occur any time, at any point. But usually when I've done the RNA tests, I've done them very early because I've done them as a confirmatory after ELISA, Western Blot and then RNA, after a positive PCR-DNA. 
 
Kernes: So they're confirmatory tests for you?


Mitchell: For us, yeah. 

Kernes
: And even then, the tests may not confirm because depending on a variety of circumstances — how long the person has been positive; whether or not they're taking protease inhibitors — the only one that will actually show that they have the virus is the PCR-DNA. 

Mitchell
: Correct. In this case [see below], the RNA will mask the virus because they still have HIV but they're undetected, and the patient can still transmit the virus at least 15 percent of the time. Therefore, the one that we depend upon in case someone is trying to hide the fact that they have HIV is PCR-DNA, because it will always show the virus is detected. 

South
: I am surprised that AIM would not offer the ELISA test if you requested it, specially since it is the ONLY HIV test that is recognized by either the CDC or the AIDS Foundation as a valid HIV Screen. 

Kernes
: Why would you give the PCR-DNA in preference to the ELISA test or the PCR-RNA test? 

Mitchell
: Because of the window period. It's not three weeks; it can be minimum six weeks to as long as six months, and that's most of the time. Young, healthy people, for the antibody to mature, could take a lot longer than your average Joe, and we're dealing with young, healthy people between the ages of 18 and 25. And also remember, we're monitoring for the HIV disease every 30 days. That's key here. It's a monitoring system.

Kernes
: Is the ELISA test the only test that's recognized by the CDC or the AIDS Foundation as a valid HIV screen? 

Mitchell
: I don't know.

South
: PCR and bDNA testing are emphatically stated as NOT to be used as an HIV screen. 

Mitchell
: That may very well be, but again, they're dealing with average, everyday people, everyday tests for the general population. We are dealing with adult entertainers for pornography and this is a system that has kept HIV successfully out of porn since the inception of this Foundation in 1998. 

South
: Some companies and performers have been mislead [sic] by AIM so make sure that the person you are going to work with knows that you have not been tested by AIM, but have tests from a certified independent [sic] lab. I only accept an ELISA test but some in porn valley [sic] may only accept a PCR test, until they have been educated to the facts. 

Mitchell
: He's got the wrong facts. PCR-DNA is the one that will always show the virus. PCR-RNA is the one that hides the virus. I've got the proof right here. 

[Note: To support her statements, Mitchell produced two tests given to the same HIV-positive individual who is currently taking protease inhibitors, the standard treatment for HIV: A PCR-RNA test, which indicates that the individual is "Within Range Result" with "Fewer than 400 copies/ml" of the virus, which would indicate to a physician who had no idea of the person's actual HIV status that the person was HIV negative; and a PCR-DNA test, which indicates that the person is "Outside of Reference Range" and is "Positive" for HIV.]

Kernes
: So if someone in porn attempted to work with just an ELISA test or just a PCR-RNA, what would be your advice to their partner or to the company that's employing them? 

Mitchell
: Do not do it. To a performer, I'd say you're putting yourself at risk because these two types of methods, ELISA and PCR-RNA, are hiding HIV at its earliest, and you may be working with someone that just has gotten HIV — it's not going to show up on either of those tests — or you may be working with someone that's HIV positive that's on medications and is not showing up on this RNA test, that can still transmit the virus 15 percent of the time. PCR-DNA test always will show up, and that's why we did this experiment here with Kevin. 

Kernes
: And on the PCR-DNA, the virus can show up within seven days?

Mitchell
: No. Let's say minimum 14, to 30. We've seen it at 14 days.

Kernes
: But it will definitely show itself by 30 days? 

Mitchell
: Absolutely.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Izzy Hall's Last Stand: SB 1576, The Condom Mandate...errrrrrr, Personal Protective Equipment Bill (Now With 50% More 2257 Kick!!) Gets Its Day In California Assembly

If at first you don't suceed..

Last year, California Assemblyman Isadore Hall made two efforts to exploit the numerous STI controversies ongoing in the Los Angeles-based porn industry in order to pass his bills to force mandatory condoms and other "barrier protection" onto porn shoots. Both times, his bills didn't even make it to the full Assembly for a vote, due to them getting killed in committee due to costs and Constitutional questions.

This week, though, Assemblyman Hall and his backers at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation are hoping that, to use another trite catch phrase, the third time would be the charm.

The newest effort, SB 1576, attempts to take a different approach from the previous attempts last year.

If you will remember, Hall's original attempts at the condom mandate utilized the existing CalOSHA regulations regarding treatment of "employees" and protection from "bloodborne pathogens" in order to require porn producers to force condoms on performers against their wishes. It also basically ignored if not sought to eliminate and replace entirely the existing screening and testing regime that has been used by the industry to screen out potential infections.

This year, though, Hall and his commisars at AHF seem to be more aware that their case isn't quite as airshut as they originally thought....so, they've tweaked and tinkled with their bill constantly to get to the point of finally unleashing it to an Assembly committee on tomorrow. The fact that the Free Speech Coalition is holding their annual "Free Speech Lobbying Days" sessions with the Assembly next week might also have something to do with their sudden desparation push.

Whatever the motivation may be, the final product of Hall still has as many questions as answers.

One main departure from last year is that the bill does give a left-handed nod to the testing regime by requiring that all adult performers not only be induced to wear "personal protective equipment" (that would include not only condoms, but also dental dams, gloves, goggles, and other forms of barrier protection), but would also have to prove that they were tested for HIV and most other STI's within 14 days of their performing anal or vaginal sex acts on screen.

Apparently, this is Hall's/AHF's way of splitting the difference with the industry through acknowledging the success of the FSC-PASS testing regime, while still favoring mandatory "barrier protection" (read, condoms) as supposedly a backup reinforcement.

Strangely enough, the proposed bill would not directly mandate "barrier protection" for oral sex acts, even though the original legislation would have bound porn producers to the provisions of California Code Section 5193, which is in the process of being revised by CalOSHA to cover porn shoots. Those proposed revisions would have not only mandated condoms/barrier protections for all anal and vaginal sex acts on screen, but would also have sanctioned any proximity of bodily fluids (including sperm or vaginal secretions) from areas where STI transmission could take place. That would mean no creampies, no facials, no external pop shots below the breasts or above the knees, and no pop shots on the buttocks. SB1576, unlike last year's efforts, slides away from such requirements, concentrating only on "barrier protection" for anal and vaginal sex.

That would be bad enough for performers who want their own choice of protection...but in the process of attempting to make his bill acceptable for passage, Assemblyman Hall added some language that may potentially undue his efforts. 

Here's the pertinent section on how Hall plans to enforce his bill, through what appears to be a record-keeping nightmare for porn producers.

(i) (1) An adult film employer’s injury prevention program shall include a log of information for all scenes produced or purchased, including, but not limited to, documentation that:

(A) Each time an employee performing in an adult film engaged in vaginal or anal intercourse,
a condom or other protective barrier personal protective equipment was used to protect the employee from exposure to bloodborne pathogens. This paragraph shall not be construed to require that the
condom or other protective barrier personal protective equipment be visible to the consumer in the finished film.

(B) Each employee performing in an adult film was tested for sexually transmitted infections,
including, but not limited to, HIV, according to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department of Public Health current at the time the testing takes place, not
less more than 14 days prior to filming any scene in which the employee engaged in vaginal or anal intercourse and that the employer paid for the test.

(2) For the purposes of this subdivision, “adult film” means any commercial film, video, multimedia, or other recorded representation during the production of which performers actually engage in sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, or anal penetration.
The main point here is that the "employers" would be required to keep detailed records of every scene they produced or published, in which not only the performers' names and licenses would be made accessible to health authorities upon request, but also test results, the detailed sex acts, and the type of "personal protection" used in each scene. Yes, folks, I said medical records. And, those records would have to be maintained and logged by the production companies for as long as the law allowed, if not forever.

Now, isn't there a law called the Health Information and Personal Privacy Act (aka HIPPA) which protects people's medical records from just such a public intervention?? And, wasn't it AHF who used the same motive of "medical privacy" to sue the old AIM when Desi Foxx's medical info turned up online thanks to the work of the original Porn Wikileaks?

If this sounds so hauntingly familiar, it's the same exact degree of death by information logging that the age verification 2257/2257A federal regulations were created to enforce. And like 2257, this new regime of medical bookeeping would allow so much abuse due to anyone getting access to the medical records of performers and using them for exploitive blackmail or doxxing...or worse.

Whether or not all this is enough go get through the Assembly firewall will be seen by all tomorrow, when the Assembly's Committee on Labor and Enforcement take up the bill. It would have to pass there, then go to another committee and pass that before it goes to the full Assembly..and then it would have to go through and pass the California State Senate before going to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

Most folk say that this won't even pass the smell test and will be tabled like the last two efforts. We'll just watch and see.