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L.A. porn condom initiative moves closer to ballot

An HIV-AIDS activist group says it has collected enough signatures to put a measure requiring actors to use condoms in porn films to a vote in June.

December 01, 2011|By Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times
  • Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

An HIV-AIDs activist group says that it has succeeded in collecting enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot to require the use of condoms in the Los Angeles adult film industry.

The initiative would force any adult filmmaker who gets a permit to shoot in the city to require performers to use condoms and allow the city to charge a fee to pay for inspections of film sets, said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored the signature drive and intends to fund the initiative campaign.

Weinstein said the foundation has gathered about 64,000 signatures for the initiative, far more than the 41,000 needed to put the measure before city voters in June. The city now must validate the signatures.

But "we had a very easy time getting these signatures," Weinstein said. Support cut "across lines — Democrat and Republican, men and women. Everyone understood this was an issue of worker protection."

In an email to the Los Angeles Times, Diane Duke, director of the Canoga Park-based Free Speech Coalition, an adult-industry lobbying group, said the industry opposes mandatory condom use and that the testing the industry already uses protects performers.

"History has shown us that regulating sexual behavior between consenting adults does not work," she wrote. "The best way to prevent the transmission of HIV and other [sexually transmitted infections] is by providing quality information and sexual health services.

"If condoms were mandatory," she wrote, "existing testing protocols would likely disappear."

But a porn performer infected with HIV in 2004 disagreed. "I thought getting a test would save me," said Darren James, a former porn actor and director. "I'm HIV-positive. Having a barrier helps."

Cases such as James' and others infected with HIV have led to the temporary shutdown of the porn industry, most recently in August.

The notoriety surrounding the issue has also highlighted other topics related to porn-actor protection.

Mark McGrath, a health consultant working with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the L.A. County Department of Health has documented 3,400 cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in the porn industry between 2004 and 2008.

sam.quinones@latimes.com

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