Judge Tosses AIDS Healthcare's Condom Lawsuit (v2.0)

LOS ANGELES—In a welcome rebuke to AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an organization whose protest signs featuring Lifestyles Condoms were much in evidence at a protest march at Hustler Hollywood earlier this fall, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has dismissed the petition for, apparently, a writ of mandamus filed by AHF in its attempt to force the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) to require that adult performers use condoms during every sex scene.

AHF's petition asked the court to direct the LADPH to "discharge its ... duty to combat an acknowledged epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases stemming from production of hardcore pornography" by requiring condom use or taking other appropriate measures.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times by Kimi Yoshino, Judge David P. Yaffe told AHF that it is the health department, not the courts, which is responsible for overseeing health threats to county residents, and that the LADPH has "broad discretion" in how it performs that duty.

AHF's petition accused the health department of failing to act to deter what it has described as an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adult performers, even as the health department itself has backed off somewhat from the misleading statistics it had earlier released about the infection rate among the performer population.

Indeed, where Yoshino had once cited hard numbers on positive STI results reported to the health department, her statement in the current article, still employing the department's flawed statistics, says, "county health officials released data that showed 18 HIV cases and more than 3,700 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis had been reported since 2004 by a San Fernando Valley-based clinic that mainly serves the porn industry."

However, according to Brooke Hunter, who runs the day-to-day operations at AIM Healthcare Foundation, the cited statistics are terribly misleading because they include not only the adult performers which AIM tests, but also the non-performer "civilians" who also use AIM's testing services.

"We have draw stations in every state in the United States, and we test adult industry and civilians alike," Hunter told AVN. "We are unique in that we do test the adult film industry, but we are not unique in the fact that we do what most HIV and STD testing and screening facilities do: We test people who come in and ask. We don't turn someone away, saying, 'We only serve the adult industry.' And sometimes a result comes up positive for those people, so there you go. When you're testing for something, there's a possibility that it comes up, but as far as the industry as a whole, it still stands: There have been five performers [who have tested HIV-positive] during the incident in 2004; that's it."

Hunter also lauded the Free Speech Coalition for its recently-released Bloodborne Pathogens Plan, which was formulated by healthcare professionals as well as AIM founder Dr. Sharon Mitchell.

"It was a lot of painstaking labor that everybody put in that, and it's good," Hunter said. "When people not involved in the industry, who don't know its day-to-day life, try to meddle in an area in which they're not directly involved, I think it looks bad for them. He [AHF president Michael Weinstein] has gotten involved with the Shelly Lubbens and these crazies and [former performer] Darren James, and I don't understand why he felt the need to regulate our industry, and the only reason I would think would be an ulterior motive. I bet you had this decision gone the other way, we would have seen a rapid Christmas sale for Lifestyle condoms; it woulde be all over the website: 'Get your Lifestyle condoms here now that they're mandatory,' and I bet he's got a boilerplate letter ready to go to all the production companies, going, 'Well, now that this law is in place, you can purchase your Lifestyle condoms here, and I would be happy to give you a 20 percent break on the price.'"

AHF has reportedly put Darren James, who is allegedly responsible for the 2004 HIV transmission to four other performers, on its payroll. It is unclear what James' duties will be for AHF other than as a spokesperson for their mandatory condom campaign.

Indeed, AHF spokeswoman Lori Yeghiayan claimed today on the LA Weekly blog that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) already has the power to require condom use by adult performers, most of whom are independent contractors.

"In our view, the current regulation, which is about preventing the transmission of blood-borne pathogens in a work place—most often in a hospital or medical setting—also applies to the porn industry," Yeghiayan told LA Weekly reporter Dennis Romero. "We're asking for compliance."

AHF has made frequent statements to this effect, ignoring the fact that making sexually explicit content is a First Amendment-protected activity, and it is the industry's position that requiring condoms during sex scenes would severely affect the erotic message of its products.

On the whole, Hunter was overjoyed with Judge Yaffee's decision.

"The judge's response is fantastic, and I frankly would have been surprised had they ruled any other way," Hunter said. "The people who are trying to impose the law on condoms are not people who are performers, producers or directors; they are someone else with an agenda."

"It's a good thing," she continued. "Let us continue to run our business ourselves. We are safer. It's much safer to work within the adult industry than it is to go out to a bar, have a couple of cocktails and end up in bed with somebody."

In a press release today, AHF vowed to appeal Judge Yaffee's ruling.