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Press Release

L.A. County Says Impact of Thousands of Infections in Porn Industry "Minimal"

In Eye-Popping Legal Demurrer, LA County Lawyers to Show Complete Disdain for Well-Being of Young People Appearing in Porn as Well as Disregard for Health of the Public-at-Large

August 25, 2009

Los Angeles, Calif. -- In response to AIDS Healthcare Foundation's (AHF) legal petition for a writ of mandate to compel Los Angeles County's Department of Public Health to fight the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the porn industry, County attorneys have filed an eye-popping demurrer that shows the County's complete disregard for young people working as performers in the $13 billion porn industry as well as revealing a strikingly blasé attitude by County officials toward potential County-wide general public health ramifications of serious infectious diseases, including transmission of several debilitating sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

The County's legal motion was filed last week in response to AHF's July 16th legal petition for a writ of mandate against the County's Public Health Department on the 'condoms in porn' issue. (NOTE: AHF separately filed workplace safety complaints late last week with Cal/OSHA -- California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health -- the state's health and safety regulatory and watchdog organization, asserting that 16 production companies endangered its workers in nearly 60 condom-less adult films they produced, shot and distributed. Those complaints remain under review by state health and safety officials.).

"We knew that Los Angeles County didn't care about young people who appear in porn, we just didn't think they were actually stupid enough to say so in print, as they did in their legal response to our petition for a writ of mandate to require the County's Department of Public Health to enforce condom use in the production of porn," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "The County should be ashamed of its actions -- and the attitude represented in its legal response -- to the industry-specific and general public health concerns raised in our legal petition."

"In its petition, AHF is requesting that the County take action within the adult film industry only. As set forth in the petition, the adult film industry employs approximately 1,200 adult film performers at any given time. (Paragraph 9 of the petition.) The population of Los Angeles County is approximately 9,850,000. Thus, AHF is seeking that the County be compelled to take certain actions in regard to less than .01% of the population ... Plainly, the public need here is minimal."

Andrea E. Ross
Senior Deputy County Counsel
For the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Demurrer to Case #BS 121665
August 18, 2009

"To County health officials, I simply ask what rises to the level of a public health concern, either for these individual at-risk actors working in the industry or for the greater Los Angeles public-at-large?" asked Weinstein, adding, "There is no firewall between porn performers and the general public."

"We are asking that Los Angles County lawyers and public health officials enforce various laws regarding public health and that they take concrete action to combat an outbreak of communicable diseases within a known population -- which County officials could do by requiring condom use on adult film sets," said Brian Chase, Assistant General Counsel for AHF.

The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles (Case No.: BS121665), Thursday, July 16th and seeks a Writ of Mandate "compelling the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to discharge its ministerial and non-discretionary statutory duty to combat an acknowledged epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases stemming from production of hardcore pornography in Los Angeles County."

AHF filed the lawsuit after exhausting all other methods to compel the County to fulfill its obligation to protect the public's health in the wake of the mid-June revelation that an actress working in the adult film business had tested positive for HIV. At that time, AHF had urged the County to better monitor HIV and STD prevention in the region's adult film industry -- and require condom use -- or to shut down porn sets.

Since the June 17th reporting of the latest HIV outbreak -- and the subsequent report by the LA Times that as many as 22 porn performers may have tested positive in the last five years -- no action has been taken by the County to halt the spread of STDs on LA porn sets or to conduct the proper and legally-required public health follow-up with those thought to be infected.

At the time of the filing of the lawsuit in July, AHF's Weinstein noted, "The Department of Public Health has a responsibility to try and control the spread of STDs in LA County -- particularly in a commercial venue -- yet the County has not taken a single step to address this serious public health threat. As an HIV and STD medical provider, it is our obligation to pursue County action on this issue."

According to figures cited by DPH, there were 2,013 documented cases of Chlamydia among LA porn performers between 2003 and 2007. In the same period, 965 cases of gonorrhea were documented. Many performers suffer multiple infections. In the period April 2004 to March 2008 there have been 2,847 STD infections diagnosed among 1,884 performers in the hardcore industry in LA County. DPH attributes the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the porn industry to a lack of protective equipment for partners, including condoms. The agency recommends condoms be used during production, but has never taken steps to ensure their use, or to protect the performers who are essentially required to endanger their health in order to remain employed.

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This article was provided by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
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