LOS ANGELES—With AIDS Healthcare Foundation's participation in the Measure B lawsuit nearly in the rear-view, the organization held a press conference today, and AHF President Michael Weinstein devoted his opening remarks to bashing the industry's response to recent reports of three HIV-positive performers, claiming that previous moratoriums on performing had been lifted too soon, and claiming that they would not even have been necessary if the industry had simply adopted a condom-only policy. He also claimed that "demonizing" his organization was not a worthwhile strategy.
Shortly after the press conference's start at 10 a.m., Weinstein introduced performer Cameron Bay, who gave a tearful recital of her experiences in learning she was HIV-positive. Also present was her romantic partner Rod Daily, and an apparently gay performer who identified himself only as John Doe, whom AHF claims is the "fourth HIV-positive performer." Also present were AHF regulars Derrick Burts and Darren James, as well as another apparently gay performer, Patrick Stone, who stated that he had received a positive HIV test earlier this month, but that subsequent tests have indicated that he may actually be negative.
Bay stated that her experience in being discovered to be HIV-positive "has taught me a lot about myself and the strength I have in myself, and it also taught me a lot about how uneducated people are about HIV, about being HIV-positive, and how people are ignorant and don't want to know about it."
"I'm not here to fight anybody's side; I'm just here share my story and to get the knowledge out there to people, and to try to prevent anything like this from happening to anybody else," she concluded.
Daily spoke next, noting that he had been performing in adult movies, "primarily on the gay side, maybe a few straight scenes in there," since 2005, and claimed that he had always performed using condoms in gay videos.
He noted that both had previously tested negative on July 10, that Bay called him to say she was positive when she found out , and as soon as Bay had informed him of her status, he got tested in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was living.
"Everybody asks why I didn't go back out to California to get tested with CET or Talent Testing: Because I didn't want my same results to get leaked like hers, and her name put out there and blasted like that," he stated. "So I did my own private facility in Phoenix, the same place that I always go that draws my blood when I get tested, but I asked them not to send my results to CET. I then found out about a week later that I was HIV positive."
Daily stated that he first used an oral home test kit for HIV, "but that doesn't really show anything except that you have been exposed within the last three months. That came up negative. The next day, I did the Western Blot, which came back a week later, which was indeterminate, and the day before I got my Western Blot test back was when I did a test with CET that said I was HIV-positive with the Rapid-Test they do, I believe."
"This is just crazy to me, because I know in my lifestyle, I haven't changed anything up in over eight years," he continued. "I've used condoms; I've shot with people that are positive, I know for sure. There are positive people on the gay side, but like I said, since 2005, that's eight years, I've shot with at least 12 people who are HIV positive, used condoms, and never been HIV positive. So if anything, I know for a fact that condoms do work and if anything, I was a guinea pig for that myself, and I know that 100 percent condoms—condoms work."
"I'm not here, again, either to push anything down anybody's throat as well; I just don't understand how an industry stands here and says that they care so much about their performers and what-not, but a week after somebody tests HIV positive, they're out there shooting without condoms," he charged. "The least they could do is, you know, put on condoms and protest their performers like they say, but ultimately, it's just a business where their main concern is money and not the performer. It's sad that a lot of people are very ignorant toward HIV and STDs in general and the whole stigma of HIV, but until they're educated, obviously, I'm sure that's the way it's always going to be."
Daily went on to claim that the new two-week testing regimen is "a big whirlwind of making money and taking money out of performers' pockets," and was of the mistaken belief that CET, one of the industry's primary testing facilities, is owned by Free Speech Coalition. He also stated, as did several other speakers, that performers should not be required to pay for HIV/STD tests, with Weinstein later saying that employer-paid testing is the law in California.
Daily concluded by thanking AHF for providing him and Bay with further testing and treatment.
Weinstein next introduced gay performer Patrick Stone, who he claimed was a "fifth" performer who had tested positive for HIV, "but it turned out that he was false positive."
"As he will tell you, he wasn't asked to do a follow-up test, and so now they were denying that there were any more cases, [but] they knew that there was a fifth case," Weinstein claimed. Apparently Weinstein is unaware that Free Speech Coalition does not track the HIV status of gay performers, since such performers generally do not test at industry-approved testing facilities.
Stone stated that he had been a performer "on and off since 2010," and "after taking a two-year hiatus, I started back up in June, 2013, working for Kink.com." However, a search of the Internet Adult Film Database indicates that while Stone is a veteran of just three movie performances, he had apparently directed nearly 60 of them since 2005, although AVN cannot confirm that the performer and director are the same person, though the listing matches his account of his performing career.
Nonetheless, Stone claimed that he "went through initial testing" with the PASS system, "cleared all my tests, was cleared to work, shot a scene for Kink.com in San Francisco, and was scheduled to shoot another scene September 11th. On the 3rd, I went through another test and found out about the moratorium on the 6th, and on the 10th, I received a generic email with test results indicating that I was HIV positive. No one from the [PASS] or Kink.com ever contacted me to discuss the results or schedule any further tests, and in fact, two days after I received the positive test, I got an email from Kink.com wanting to reschedule the shoot that was canceled due to the moratorium for this week, going outside of the moratorium, even though I had a positive HIV test... We've taken subsequent tests and it's looking like it may be a false positive, but we're still not, you know, 100 percent sure on that, and I feel I had to step forward because I couldn't in good conscience let this happen."
However, during the question-and-answer period that followed the speakers, it was brought out that Kink.com may have been unaware of Stone's pseudo-HIV-positive status. Additionally, according to Joanne Cachapero of Free Speech Coalition, performers are not informed of their HIV/STD status through "generic email," and in fact, both state law and industry practices require that any such information must be discussed with the patient in person.
Stone described his reaction to having received the false-positive HIV result, saying that it had been a "whirlwind week," and stated his belief that the "PASS/APHSS [system] is not working. I mean, if I was allowed to fall through the cracks like I did, who else is out there?" However, Stone gave no specific information regarding how he was "allowed to fall through the cracks," other than that Kink.com had called to book him even though he had somehow received a notification that he was infected.
After Stone concluded, Weinstein stepped in.
"The standard operating procedure for the industry is to attack a performer, also to deny that they're infected on set, and generally put the profits of the industry above the health and welfare of the performers," he summarized his long-standing positions. "Very much a case in point of that is Derrick Burts. He was infected with HIV while in the industry in 2010, and he has been a lead spokesperson for the efforts to bring safety to the industry."
As AVN has previously reported, there is no evidence that Burts, a gay and straight performer, was infected on an adult movie set, and given his history as an escort in Orange County, California, there is good reason to doubt the story of his infection.
For his part, Burts, who is currently employed by AHF, spoke about his alleged poor treatment by the industry, and claimed that "they kind of bashed my name to the media," although AIM, where he had gone for testing, had consistently referred to him as "Patient Zeta."
"That's when I realized this industry didn't care about my health or my safety or the performers' health and safety," he stated. "What they care about, the bottom line is, how much money can they put into their pockets, and if something like this were to happen and get out to the media, how can they distance themselves from that performer, and say this pretty much is their fault; it didn't happen on a work set."
Burts went on to claim that the "moratoriums are a joke... and the fact that there have been two is clear evidence that the industry needs to stay shut down for quite some time and really do some thinking about this and come up with a system that actually works." He failed to mention, however, that a diligent search has not been able to find anyone within the hetero adult industry who may have infected Bay, Daily or Stone (if he is infected), and later, so-called "Patient 4," "John Doe," refused to reveal any information about himself or his alleged infection to allow the source to be determined.
AHF next brought out former performer Darren James, another AHF employee, who was found to be HIV-positive after having worked overseas with untested partners, and who described himself this morning as "the actual witch hunt, going way back."
"This industry hasn't changed anything," he charged. "I've done, back in the day, maybe about 300-some movies, so I know what I'm talking about. I was an actual performer back then, so check me out. This industry has failed. It will continue to fail. We all should wake up."
James encouraged the media "to really push it" for reform.
"This industry will continue to do the same thing if we let them go back to business as usual," he claimed. "I don't want to see a whole army of people sitting at this table. Let's stop this, you know... Don't let the industry go back to what it used to be, business as usual. We can't afford this."
The final speaker, whom Weinstein described as someone "who recently tested positive," was referred to only as "John Doe," and spoke to the assemblage by telephone.
"I started in the industry about two years ago," Doe began. "I've been consistently testing myself in my personal life, entirely independent of the studios. In the two years that I've been working, I was only tested four times at the request of the studios. I tested myself personally every two to three months through various different sources. Approximately about two weeks before a shoot that I recently did, I came back with a negative RNA test, so it has a short window period. Approximately two weeks following that shoot, I developed acute symptoms and tested HIV-positive with an RNA test. Approximately a week and a half later, I tested positive again with a confirmatory RNA test. I basically—immediately after I found that out, I obviously contacted my partners in my personal life. They all tested non-reactive on an RNA test, and that narrowed it down for me to the shoot that I performed in.
"Immediately after I figured that out, that studio was contacted," he continued. "They referred me to their Workers Compensation Department, at which point in time, the workers compensation claim was processed and eventually denied. The reason for the denial was insufficient evidence, and as a performer who became infected on set—as soon as I found out I was infected, I notified everyone who needed to be notified. I notified the state departments who are responsible for health and safety. I contacted the city, I contacted the partners, but that didn't help me at all after I found out. When workers compensation was denied, I thought beforehand that, okay, I got infected; that shouldn't have happened, but at least there's something in place. It turns out that workers compensation will be denied because there's not sufficient evidence to substantiate that claim, and thus, even though they say they have workers compensation to protect the performer in the event something like that does happen, it apparently doesn't work."
Doe refused to give out any details regarding his infection "until everything has been concluded as far as investigations like that go," but his statement certainly raises far more questions than it answers. For example, if Doe were working on the hetero side of the industry—the side that required all performers to have negative HIV/STD tests every 28 days, and now every 14 days—it is inconceivable that he could have performed in any movies outside of the four where he was "tested... at the request of the studios." Doe also stated that he consistently had himself tested "in my personal life," but it is uncommon for hetero performers to do such frequent testing, since they test at least monthly for work, so that too suggests that Doe is a gay performer, and hence generally outside the normal testing regimen for the hetero side of the industry. Finally, if Doe had been working for a hetero studio and had claimed to them that he had been infected on one of their sets, it is inconceivable that that studio's only reaction would have been to direct Doe to their Workers Compensation Department. Indeed, even a gay studio would likely have at least informed Doe's partners in the scene he shot for them of his newly-revealed HIV-positive status.
At the conclusion of Doe's statements, Weinstein again launched into an attack on the adult industry.
"You know, the basic M.O. of the industry is chew them up and spit them out; I think that's what you've heard here today," he accused. "It's obvious the industry doesn't care, it's obvious that Los Angeles County doesn't care. AIDS Healthcare Foundation cares about everyone infected or effected by HIV. In addition to the public health issue, what you've heard here today is gross violations of the law regarding privacy and confidentiality that are routine, which are, again, standard operating procedure in this industry, where producers, Free Speech Coalition and others know the status of a performer before they do, and that's in total violation of the law."
Weinstein gave no evidence for that latter charge, and both Free Speech Coalition and Dr. Peter Miao of CET have denied revealing Bay's (or anyone's) HIV status to any producer or to the coalition itself, though Bay later claimed that it had been John Stagliano who, without her permission, had somehow accessed her records and reported her viral load to her. In fact, Bay herself contacted AVN to report her HIV-positive status after speculation on several adult industry blogs had linked her name with an alleged positive performer. Her partner, Rod Daily, announced his own positive status through his Twitter account, and before today's press conference, no one had mentioned Stone in connection with HIV—and of course, no one but AIDS Healthcare knows who "John Doe" is or what his health status is.
"I would say we've had multiple instances where people lie about their results, doctor their results, or aren't required to show their results," Weinstein continued, "so the whole story that this testing system in place is ironclad is simply untrue. You've got to stop taking medical advice from pornographers. And I want to repeat that: You've got to stop taking medical advice from pornographers."
Weinstein went on to bash Assemblymember Mike Gatto, again claiming that Gatto somehow managed to get AB 640, the tobacco-sales-turned-mandatory-condom bill, rejected by the state Senate. He directed the audience to an article in the Glendale Press-Telegram by Ron Kaye "if you believe in any way, shape or form that fairytale that he told about the fact that he wasn't the one killing it."
"Lastly, I want to say that there's been a lot of propaganda coming from the industry that the performers are with the producers, and that's baloney," Weinstein claimed, referring to the fact that most performers don't wish to perform with condoms. "Looking at the blogosphere these days, and hearing from these individuals, there's certainly not a united front, and as you have heard also, tremendous pressure has been applied to performers to not ask for condoms and to publicly support the industry's position against condoms."
Weinstein did not identify who had supposedly been applying this alleged pressure.
During the question-and-answer period that followed, Doe was asked when he had been infected and what studio he was working with when the infection allegedly happened, but Doe again refused to reveal that information, though he did say the infection occurred within the past six months.
In response to another question, Bay described her experiences working for Kink.com, which she said she was "excited" to do, and "something I wanted to experience." She said the company had been "very nice and welcoming and, you know, comfortable," but that later, at a bar near the company's Armory location, an extra had bruised her breast so badly that she was unable to perform for two weeks, and that she would "now have to get my breast redone because of the damage." She also said that on the set, "there was an incident with a performer I was working with, and he ended up with a cut on the tip of his penis, and he was bleeding. They stopped production; Rod was there; they asked him to cover; he got ready, and the performer said, no, he could continue to work, and we continued to work even though he was bleeding from the cut, and we did not use condoms. There were up to like 50 people in the room with us, and we were laying on top of [unintelligible], and they were touching inappropriately from time to time, and it all happened so fast that I didn't realize how unsafe it was until I saw the pictures that Rod showed me. It's a whole other level when you're doing something so extreme."
Weinstein was quick to charge that, "as you can tell, a lot of the issues revolve around Kink," and equally quick to point out that, "the owner of Kink is on the board—Peter Acworth is a board member of the Free Speech Coalition, which is responsible for the testing and responsible for the regulation of the industry." (FSC will likely be surprised to learn that it has so much regulatory power.)
Daily stated in response to another question that he and Bay had received comments both positive and negative from industry members, and that both had received support and some donations. He made a point to note that Free Speech had sent him a check for $18.05, "so they definitely showed their concern for performers... I don't know if that was like a slap in the face or, you know, whatever it is." In fact, according to Cachapero, that was a check from the Performers Subsidy Fund, and that most currently-working performers would have received checks for similar amounts in order to defray the cost of testing—which Weinstein later claimed would cost performers $600 per month. Bay said she had received monetary donations from industry members and producers.
"We reached out to AHF to try to get help with medicine and stuff like that," Daily reported, "and they've been more than—they've done more than obviously anybody so far for us in helping us, and been amazing and great. I think a lot of people get confused. Their message is like they're trying to take down the porn industry or anything like that; I don't think that's the case at all. They're here just to make sure that people are safe, and they're not even like, you know—they could care less about people shooting porn, but they want to make sure the performers are safe and the performers are taken care of, and obviously they've done that with me and her, showing that they do are and they want to make sure all of our medical needs are taken care of.
"Condoms in porn: It's not really that crazy or bad of a thing, and they really care about the performers," he concluded. "Like I said, condoms do work because I've used them for eight years and I've shot with people who are positive, so..."
Of course, the fact that both Daily and Bay have been unable so far to find the source of their HIV infections suggests that that may not be the whole story on condoms.
The press conference concluded shortly before 11 a.m.