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Here's a little jargon for you—in terms of STD and STI transmission in the porn industry, we have two main types: On set and off set. On set, of course, refers to a disease spread between two performers while they're shooting for a studio. Off set refers to a disease spread in the personal lives of performers, which only becomes relevant because they are, in fact, people who have sex for a living.
With that in mind, we can syphon industry HIV contractions into two buckets: Those that go down at work, and those that go down at home. There are the sparse occurrences of the former, with one potentially on-set transmission in 2014 in Nevada, and the last before that back in 2004. There are certainly more in the latter category, which makes sense—while performers have to be tested every two weeks, their non-performer partners do not. (Consider me, your average civilian—the only person who tries to mandate my testing frequency is my gynecologist, which she does quite convincingly but with no actual authority.)
Transmission in porn vs. the real world
I detail these things because they're important to consider in the context of Measure B, a mandate spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that requires performers to wear condoms in LA County when they're performing on set. On set. Not off set, because it is still not legal, ethical, or even marginally viable to require that all human beings wear condoms during sex in their personal lives. This prompts my first concern: From a purely objective standpoint, is that bucket even one we should be worried about? According to the CDC, more than 47,000 people in the U.S. contracted HIV in 2013 alone. Compare that to the two or three on-set transmissions in the past 12 years, and it seems like a negligible chip at what has been—and remains—a global health crisis.
But I digress—there are certainly people who believe so, hence the implementation of Measure B. Michael Weinstein, president of the AHF, remains one of the most impassioned proponents and the veritable reason the measure exists at all. After its passing in 2012, he sued LA County for failing to enforce it. Vivid Entertainment joined the settlement, claiming it violates the first, fourth, and 14th amendments and that from the standpoint of industry testing standards, porn sets remain one of the safest places to have sex sans protection.
The settlement sign-off solidifies new measures
Earlier this year, AHF and Vivid reached a settlement: Vivid would not longer claim the law violates their Constitutional rights, and county health inspectors would have to provide notice before inspecting a set. Beyond that, the county would not withhold filming permits from studios with poor compliance records and would not penalize them via fees. From a financial standpoint, this is a smart move by LA County, which has lost a nearly insurmountable amount of revenue from decreased porn production since the passage of the measure. For the AHF, this is a win in the sense that Measure B cannot be refuted on paper. But for the porn industry, this essentially renders the measure unenforceable—little more than a piece of paper. Furthermore, Weinstein is now blocked from suing LA County.
It looks like everyone involved has secured a small win, which is important. As I talked about with Missy and Aeryn, performers have overwhelming opposed the measure, saying they feel safe on set and that the bimonthly testing is more than enough to keep the industry squeaky clean—or, at least, much squeakier than it is out here for the rest of us. Throughout history on nearly ever matter, it has never proved wise to try to "take care" of a group you are neither a part of nor understand, as even with the best of intentions, your knowledge gaps will do far more harm than good. (Again, I highly recommend listening to Aeryn discuss that one for clarification.)
The damages of wielding control
The overarching issue, however, is much more perplexing. Even if Measure B were enforceable in LA, that is tackling a tiny, tiny of number of transmissions. In response to Measure B, production began occurring in places like Las Vegas and Miami, where the law not only applied, but where industry testing standards are much less stringent. You might be able to control LA County, but you cannot control the world. What remains to be the real problem is how HIV is transmitted in all of personal lives where we also frequently elect to have sex without protection.
My greatest fear? That the blatant prejudice people have against the porn industry will overshadow our real problems—problems rooted in fact, not fear.
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