Q&A: AHF's Weinstein, Keenly Focused on the Porn Biz for a Decade
LOS ANGELES — Ten years ago this month, Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, led a protest outside the Wilshire Boulevard office of Larry Flynt Productions, demanding that the famous porn studio go 100 percent condom-only in all of its scenes.
The June 2004 protest, complete with AHF staff holding placards saying "Do the Right Thing, Larry Flynt" and "Condoms Save Lives" along with oversized, three-feet-high rubber condoms on broom sticks, was just the beginning of a long and twisted road over advocating mandatory condoms in porn productions for the Hollywood, Calif., group, now the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the country with an annual budget of $750 million.
Five years later, Weinstein and the AHF filed suit against Los Angeles County public health officials, claiming they hadn't made any moves to require condom use on the porn set. At the time, Weinstein said that condoms during porn shoots were necessary because "the experiment with self-regulation in the porn industry is a flop."
Fast forward to 2014, Weinstein and the AHF are still in the midst of trying to change the way sexually explicit productions are made in Porn Valley, making headway with a victory with Los Angeles voters in November 2012 with Measure B and getting some in California's Legislature to back a statewide condom-only proposal, AB 1576.
XBIZ spoke with Weinstein on Thursday for this Q&A to find out more about his determination to make condoms mandatory for all American porn productions.
XBIZ: In June 2004, the AHF started a campaign asking porn film producers to voluntarily agree to 100 percent condom use during filming. Ten years later, the AHF might be getting what it asked for — through government regulation. Why is this issue so near and dear to AHF's heart?
Michael Weinstein: AHF has an international advocacy agenda across a wide array of public health issues. We test 2 million people a year and treat 312,000 patients in 12 states and 33 countries. We don't regard anyone as disposable including adult film performers.
XBIZ: Much has been said lately of the numbers used to promote AB 1576 to legislators. Many in the biz accuse you of using off-set HIV infections as evidence of on-set danger. What's the truth?
Weinstein: Los Angeles County has indicated that they do not know how many HIV infections have taken place on-set in recent years. It is not traceable with current data. We do know that thousands of STDs have been transmitted during filming. The legal brothels in Nevada, who are required to use condoms, have very low rates of STDs and have not had a single HIV transmission in more than 30 years.
XBIZ: If AB 1576 is signed into law, will the AHF take a continuing vigilant role and become chief complainant against violating studios?
Weinstein: Enforcing the workplace safety laws of California is the job of Cal/OSHA. We will monitor the situation and be involved as necessary.
XBIZ: And if AB 1576 gets the green light in California, will the AHF lobby for similar legislation in other states, like Nevada, Arizona, Florida or even New Hampshire?
Weinstein: We have already filed complaints in Florida and have had meetings with state officials in Nevada. AHF has a large presence in both states. The discussion within the industry speculating that condomless porn will be welcomed with open arms in Nevada is wishful thinking. Federal OSHA bloodborne pathogen laws apply nationwide.
XBIZ: The AHF several years back acknowledged it desired to offer performer-testing services. While that idea drifted off course, do you see that ever in the future for the AHF?
Weinstein: We have never intended to provide specific testing targeting adult film performers.
XBIZ: With Measure B pending at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, FilmLA reported that recorded adult film permits plummeted — 95 percent — in Los Angeles County last year. Do you think more Porn Valley studios are going underground or are shooting out of the county?
Weinstein: I believe that many companies are breaking the law and are filming without permits.
XBIZ: According to Vivid Entertainment's attorneys, taxpayers could be on the hook for funding Measure B permitting requirements, including the cost of set inspections and subsequent hearings to determine fines, if the source of revenue is defunded if the 9th Circuit ruled for Vivid. Do you think this would be a great setback to Measure B, as well as the public's attitude over porn-condom regulation, if the appeals court rules for Vivid?
Weinstein: I cannot speculate on the outcome of the appeal. The constitutionality of the statute was upheld in the lower court and we would be surprised if the 9th Circuit overturned that decision. Regarding the fees, all that L.A. County has to do is to complete a fee study that fairly determines their costs and then they can begin charging fees.
XBIZ: Kink.com CEO Peter Acworth has twice publicly taken up the pen to address AB 1576 with you. Why have you not responded to the producer?
Weinstein: Peter Acworth is among the worst offenders in the industry when it comes to putting performers at risk. What else is there to say?