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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 01
L.A. AIDS activists collect signatures to get condom measure on ballot
Section One
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L.A. AIDS activists collect signatures to get condom measure on ballot

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

AIDS activists in Los Angeles began circulating petitions on January 3 for a county-wide initiative that would require porn performers to wear condoms during filming.

To qualify the measure for the November 2012 election, supporters need to gather more than 200,000 signatures by June 5.

The launch of a new initiative comes less than a month after a similar measure - scheduled for the Los Angeles city ballot in June - was blocked by a legal challenge.

The proposed ballot measure would 'require producers of adult films to obtain a public health permit from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and pay a permit fee' to fund enforcement.

The measure is modeled on health permit requirements for tattoo shops, massage parlors, and bathhouses. The county could also conduct random spot checks of film sites, similar to the county's surprise inspections of restaurants and food carts.

The county would be authorized to revoke permits of film producers violating the ordinance, and violations could result in civil fines or misdemeanor charges.

'The county has a primary responsibility of protecting the public health,' AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein told the L.A. Times.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation also backed the original city-wide initiative. It says that the L.A.-based porn industry does not take sufficient health and safety precautions to protect its performers.

The city-wide measure was blocked when Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in December.

Trutanich's suit claimed that 'Los Angeles voters have no power to adopt the proposed measure,' because only the state - not the city - has the ability to make such rules.

A voter-approved condom requirement could attract a porn industry lawsuit, Trutanich said, forcing 'the needless and wasteful expenditure of public resources made in connection with a measure which the voters have no power to adopt.'

Weinstein countered that it is the county government that has primary responsibility to protect public health, including the health of porn performers.

Fire departments are responsible for overseeing pyrotechnics on film sets, and municipalities have banned smoking in restaurants to protect patron and employee health, he noted.

Porn performers deserve the same occupational rights to health and safety protection as construction workers, who are required to wear harnesses when working on skyscrapers, Weinstein said.

Weinstein charged that the county Board of Supervisors has 'steadfastly refused' to take action against porn producers who don't use condoms in filming, putting performers at risk of HIV and other diseases.

'So we will take it to the voters,' Weinstein said of his new county-wide initiative.

An April 2011 report criticized porn production companies for concealing HIV information from public health authorities.

'Limited cooperation from many adult film industry companies restricted this contact investigation. Rarely did industry legal counsel give information for investigation,' the report said.

The report, written by Dr. Francisco Meza, a physician with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came in the wake of an HIV scare that temporarily shut down the porn industry

Meza's report found that two male porn actors were HIV-positive when they had sex with Derrick Burts, an adult film performer whose HIV-positive diagnosis in October 2010 caused a temporary shut down of the porn industry.

Burts told authorities that he had sex with six men and 10 women in the two months before his HIV diagnosis, but officials were able to contact only five of them, and none wanted to cooperate with the investigation, the report said.

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