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Requiring porn actors to wear condoms backed by AIDS group

January 2, 2012 |  5:01 am

Photo: Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation demonstrates at a Cal/OSHA meeting in Orange County in 2010 for condom use in porn filming. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

An AIDS activist group will begin circulating petitions Tuesday asking Los Angeles County voters to require porn performers to wear condoms during filming.

The move comes after the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation qualified a similar ballot measure for Los Angeles city voters – although the city measure faces a legal challenge.

"The county has a primary responsibility of protecting the public health," foundation president Michael Weinstein told The Times.

Weinstein asserted 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 disease infection. "So we will take it to the voters," Weinstein said in an interview.

The 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 similar health permits for tattoo shops, massage parlors and bathhouses.

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

Weinstein said the county could conduct random spot checks of film sites, just like how the county does surprise health inspections of restaurants and food carts.

Weinstein plans to hold a press conference Tuesday morning at 10:30 in front of the Van Nuys office of county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, where the multibillion dollar porn industry is centered.

In February 2010, Yaroslavsky said it is the state of California, not the county, that needs to act to protect adult film performers. If law enforcement is empowered to conduct sting operations, Yaroslavsky said, "all you've got to do is make one or two arrests and the rest of the . . . industry will understand pretty quickly that there's a risk."

Weinstein, however, said the county has the responsibility to protect the health of all people, including porn performers. After all, he said, the fire department is responsible for overseeing pyrotechnics on a film set, and municipalities have banned smoking in restaurants to protect patron and employee health.

He said porn performers deserve the same occupational rights to protect their safety and health as  construction workers, who are required to wear harnesses when working on skyscrapers.

To qualify for the November 2012 election, more than 200,000 signatures need to be gathered by June 5.

The infection of porn performers has occasionally temporarily halted filming of porn films in the past, as occurred in the summer of 2010, when porn performer Derrick Burts was diagnosed with HIV. Burts later said condom use needs to be required on porn sets to prevent more HIV infections from happening.

Diane Duke, director of the adult industry lobbying group Free Speech Coalition, has previously said the industry opposed mandatory condom use and said that performers are protected if they are tested regularly for disease.

--- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation demonstrates at a Cal/OSHA meeting in Orange County in 2010 for condom use in porn filming. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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