AHF to Appeal California Ruling on HIV in Porn

 

AHF To Appeal Appeals Court Rejection of Condom Petition

(Pictured: File photos of AHF President Michael Weinstein and attorney F. Brian Chase)

Will Seek California Supreme Court review of decision finding that LA County cannot be compelled to protect the public health in the making of adult films

By: AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Los Angeles, CAJune 23, 2011
 

In response to the dismissal late last week by California’s Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, of an appeal (Case No. #B222979) by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) of an AHF legal action which sought a writ of mandate compelling Los Angeles County to take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, in the adult film industry, AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced that it will file a petition for review with the Supreme Court of California.

The AHF legal action was first filed in July 2009 in Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles (Case No. BS121665). Through it, AHF sought 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 initial lawsuit after exhausting all other methods to compel the County to fulfill its obligation to protect the public’s health in the wake of a June 2009 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, as required under state statute—or to shut down porn sets.

Over the past two years, AHF’s case worked its way through the California courts. While the action was pending, another adult performer, Derrick Burts, a 24 year-old adult film actor, tested HIV-positive while working in the industry. In addition, hundreds of performers have contracted thousands of sexually transmitted diseases. Los Angeles County, which has a duty to protect the public health, has failed to take any meaningful steps to control or prevent these infections.

“Unfortunately, in dismissing our case, the Court of Appeal effectively ruled that the County cannot be forced to fulfill it statutory duty to protect the public from inherently hazardous activities, such as sexually transmitted diseases resulting from the making of adult films. We disagree with that conclusion, and will seek Supreme Court review,” said Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs and General Counsel for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “And, AIDS Healthcare Foundation will continue to pursue all available means to protect adult film workers and the public. The County of Los Angeles has the duty to protect public health, one the highest responsibilities of local government. It simply cannot ignore this duty and blithely sit by while thousands of people, both inside and outside the industry, contract STDs.”

Since the June 2009 reporting of that particular HIV outbreak in the adult industry—and subsequent reports by the LA Times that as many as 22 porn performers may have tested positive in the previous 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.

“We will vigorously pursue this legal avenue with the California Supreme Court in order to try to compel LA County Health officials to safeguard the health and wellbeing of those working in the adult film industry in California,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “As an HIV and STD medical provider, it is our obligation to continue to pursue action on this issue, which goes beyond the recent HIV outbreaks and includes an epidemic of thousands of STD cases in the porn industry annually—an epidemic virtually ignored by the County Department of Public Health. County officials and porn producers should know we will not stop our efforts to protect the public health and will continue to fight the STD epidemic in the adult film industry.”

The fact that the Los Angeles Department of Public Health is aware of the ongoing pervasive sexually transmitted disease crisis in LA’s pornography industry is well documented. DPH has cited numerous figures confirming an STD epidemic among performers in adult films, including the fact that performers in hardcore pornography are ten times more likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease than members of the population at large.

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.

“Despite a duty to take all reasonable measures necessary to prevent transmission of these diseases, LA public health officials have done nothing to combat this known, serious health threat to the people of Los Angeles County,” said Brian Chase, Assistant Legal Counsel for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The agency’s inaction continues to needlessly place thousands of people at risk of disease.”

AHF has previously sought remedy for public health issues through the legal system and succeeded. In late 2008, in response to an AHF lawsuit filed in Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles, a judge ordered California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to implement a landmark 2002 law intended to extend Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage to HIV-positive Californians. The Court ruled that the state’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) “…arbitrarily failed to meet its statutory duties…” in implementing the 2002 legislation.

 

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