On Election Day 2012, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure B, an ordinance “requiring producers of adult films to obtain a County public health permit” and for “adult film performers to use condoms while engaged in sex acts.” Porn producers, who have consistently opposed the measure, vowed to fight it tooth and nail. But as it turns out, one group is ready to fight back.
On Monday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) — an advocacy and lobbying outfit that has pushed for cheaper HIV medications and greater public health protections for HIV-positive Americans — became the first group to call out the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health over its allegedly lax enforcement of Measure B since its passage. The foundation lodged an official complaint with the County “after receiving an anonymous letter with an accompanying videotape filmed by someone on an Immoral Productions set” depicting unsafe sex practices and reviewing material on the production company’s website that also depicted intercourse without a condom.
For the well-funded advocacy group, this is just the latest skirmish in a decade-long battle. AHF president Michael Weinstein has spearheaded efforts to instill the same workplace safety and public health standards on straight porn sets as are already enforced in most gay pornography productions. Under his leadership, the AHF filed suit — to no avail — to make Los Angeles-produced pornography a “condom-only” enterprise; pushed for a citywide L.A. ordinance to the same effect; and spent over $1.6 million in its ultimately successful 2012 campaign to pass the more expansive, countywide Measure B. As he told L.A. Weekly in 2010, “AHF doesn’t give up on an issue, and we’re not going to give up on this.”
It appears that Weinstein and his group plan to follow through on that promise in the face of a combative Los Angeles adult entertainment industry and concerns over the Public Health Department’s enforcement prowess. “We’re putting them to the test,” Weinstein told the Los Angeles Times. “If democracy means something in L.A. County — if porn producers and county supervisors are not above the law — then they will enforce it.”
AHF and fellow public health advocacy organizations certainly have their work cut out for them. Trade groups associated with the multibillion dollar L.A. porn industry have promised to litigate the measure, citing freedom of speech concerns. This argument could potentially stand up in court — but only if the industry’s claims that it sufficiently tests all of its performers for sexually transmitted infections are true. An independent study by AHF that was published in the December Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases presents plenty of evidence to suggest that they are not, as “roughly a third of the 168 adult film actors who participated in the research project were found to have a previously undiagnosed STD.”