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Condoms in porn: AIDS group vows to take fight to L.A. County

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

LA Now
For years, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein has sought to persuade elected officials to protect the health of porn actors by forcing adult film companies to require condom use.

This week, Weinstein celebrated his first major victory after the Los Angeles City Council voted to require condom use as a condition of getting film permits in the city. Now Weinstein wants to take his fight to Los Angeles County.

“This is a case study in the power of persistence,” Weinstein said in an interview. He noted that the concept of allowing drug users to exchange needles, once seen as untouchable, finally gained acceptance as a way to protect people from HIV.

Weinstein has pushed state legislators and the County Board of Supervisors to back mandatory condom use, but has received little support. No state lawmakers have been willing to sponsor legislation, Weinstein said, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in 2010 that the state, not the county Department of Public Health, should be dealing with the matter.

Weinstein also lost a court battle to compel the county public health agency to take a stronger position on condom use.

The tide began shifting in 2010, when the California Occupational Safety and Health officials said that rules protecting employees from bodily fluids also apply to porn actors. Adult film performers have said condom use in the industry should be a matter of choice for consenting adults -– and is not an issue for the government.

The big change came last year, when the AIDS Healthcare Foundation decided to seek a voter-approved ordinance mandating condom use as a condition for getting a film permit within city limits.

Weinstein said he was surprised that the City Council decided to back the condom measure, thus avoiding a vote of the public, when lawmakers have been reluctant to get involved with the issue.

He’s proposing a similar requirement for county government, which handles health permits for businesses such as tattoo parlors and restaurants.

“We’re going to go through the same drill with the county. We’re going to collect hundreds of thousands of [petition] signatures, we’re going to submit them. They’re going to huff and puff, and then we’ll see whether they’ll want to” have a vote on the issue at the same time as the presidential election, Weinstein said.