Porn Stars With HIV to Protest Lack of Condom Rules

Porn Stars With HIV to Protest Lack of Condom Rules
Performers against condoms, via Neon Tommy/Flickr

UPDATE at 3:05 p.m., Nov. 5: The porn industry fires back. See a statement below.

California workplace health and safety officials say condoms are required equipment for adult video performers. 

They have said they will enforce this rule on a complaint basis, meaning they'll check out a set and even view XXX material if they receive a serious report that porn stars are working without prophylactics.

But the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation says that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has been slow to update its regulations so they specifically say condoms are the law for porn stars on the job.

Today four ex-performers who have HIV plan to protest Cal/OSHA's pace on the regulations update outside its L.A. district office at 320 W. Fourth St. downtown, the AHF says.

Those performers include Cameron Bay, Joshua Rodgers, Derrick Burts and Darren James. They'll be joined by as many as 90 other performers and "safe-sex advocates" in demonstrating against Cal/OSHA, according to AHF.

The industry trade group known as the Free Speech Coalition says that no performers have contracted HIV on-set in 10 years and that its twice-a-month testing protocol for porn stars works by catching major STDs and shutting down production before they spread.

The AHF, which says the four became HIV-positive "while working in the adult film industry," has been trying to make condoms the law of the land.

While Cal/OSHA already interprets federal workplace regulations to mean that these adult employees should not be exposed to blood-borne pathogens, AHF backed legislation this year that would have specifically outlawed condom-free porn production in the state.

The bill failed.

The organization argues that condoms are the only surefire way to keep performers safe. The industry, on the other hand, says consumers just won't buy condom porn and forcing it on producers will only push them underground or to other states.

AHF says Cal/OSHA has engaged in "repeated bureaucratic delays and inaction" and that it's been five years since it got the ball rolling on updating the blood-borne pathogens standards "to better protect adult film workers and strengthen and clarify regulations regarding condom use in porn productions filmed anywhere in California."

The standards update process was started at the behest of AHF in December, 2009, the organization says.

The department held meetings open to health advocates and the porn community as a way of seeking input on its proposed update. But it has been slow going. AHF:

OSHA has delayed most hearings and/or any meaningful action on the petition—most recently, with a delay until March 2015.

AHF president Michael Weinstein:

The regularity of on-set exposure to infectious disease—including a multitude of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, and herpes— is alarming, given that the adult film industry is a legal California industry. Negating any ambiguity in OSHA regulations will have a real effect on the health of this particular group of California workers. We are fed up with OSHA’s bureaucratic delays and inaction ...

The demonstration happens from noon to 2 p.m.

UPDATE at 3:05 p.m., Nov. 5: The Free Speech Coalition responded this afternoon, stating that "we're not exactly sure what they're protesting" because new guidelines are expected early in the new year, only a few months away.

Here's its statement:

Cal/OSHA is currently in the process of drafting regulations specific to the adult film industry. We expect a draft version of the regulations to be available in just a few months and that those regulations will take into account the input of the affected workers — in this case, adult film performers and performer groups — something Michael Weinstein and AHF have refused to do.

This is why performers, HIV outreach organizations, LGBT rights groups, public health departments, and civil rights organizations have consistently opposed Mr. Weinstein’s misguided attacks. We think that public policy should rest on science and data, rather than his personal moral objections to adult film.

For the record, adult film performers are tested for a full slate of STIs, including HIV, every two weeks, in a system that has successfully prevented any transmission of HIV on a regulated adult film set for over ten years. (Mr. Weinstein routinely employs performers who contracted the virus in their personal lives in his campaigns against the adult film industry.)

In generating a manufactured crisis, Mr. Weinstein not only wastes tax dollars, he wastes resources that should be used to educate and treat communities where HIV is a real issue. Railing against the adult industry brings Mr. Weinstein more press attention than opening clinics in poor, underserved communities, but from the standpoint of public health it’s cynical and shameful.

We understand that our industry is often misunderstood — something Mr. Weinstein capitalizes on time and again. For that reason, we’re happy to talk with anyone about the industry, its safety record and the rights of performers.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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