FSC Statement on Affirmative Vote by CA Senate Labor Relations for AB1576

June 25, 2014

This morning, California Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee cleared AB 1576, the legislation to require mandatory barrier protection use on adult production CA-Senate-Sealsets. The bill will now proceed to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Regarding today’s developments, Free Speech Coalition issued this statement:

“Today’s vote is a slap in the face to adult performers, who have been outspoken in their opposition this bill and have worked so hard to defeat it. In his words and actions, Hall has made it abundantly clear that he knows little about the performers he seeks to control, and respects their opinions even less. He has not worked with them on this bill, and has actively spurned their offers to create an alternate solution that would strengthen comprehensive workplace safety measures while respecting their real concerns about privacy and personal choice.

Supporters of AB 1576 stated again in the hearing that the bill relies on the PASS database for testing and enforcement. That Hall would rely on our private procedures says something both about the strength of our existing  procedures, and the short-sightedness of Hall as to what this bill will cost the state. As the bill approaches appropriations, we suspect that Senators will have very serious concerns about how a private testing system run privately serve as the backbone for government regulation.

We understand that Assemblymember Hall wants a bill for his legacy, but such legacy should not be built on the backs of adult performers.”


The 9 Most Outrageous Flaws In AHF’s Performer STI Study

June 12, 2014

The numbers regarding STI transmission put out yesterday by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation are shocking in their duplicity, and the study is shameful in its methodology.

For months, AHF has claimed that its mandatory condom bill, AB1576, was not an attack on the industry or its performers. However, it’s clear from this study that they have no respect for performers themselves, and that their ultimate goal is not to improve the industry, but to shut it down. In his press conference, Michael Weinstein claimed that performers were a threat to public health, and are “leading to the spread of disease outside the industry.”

If AHF wanted to foment a moral panic about porn, this study is a great way to do it. A few points worth bearing in mind as you consider their conclusions.

  • Rather than publishing the study, which would allow the press to examine the numbers and the methodology fully, AHF released it as an infographic poster — less information than you’d get an 8th grade science project. This isn’t data, it’s propaganda.
  • Rather than only using data from the regulated facilities where adult performers test every two weeks, and which would provide a true random sampling, AHF solicited a portion of their participants instead from an STI treatment clinic, which they knew would skew numbers higher.
  • A full 20% of the participants in the study had not shot a single adult film in the past month, making the claim that these numbers reflect workplace transmissions spurious at best.
  • In fact, over 70% of the participants said they didn’t use a condom in their private life, and another 23% said they had exchanged drugs/sex for money. AHF made no effort to distinguish STIs that came from adult film workplaces from those contracted off-set. Furthermore, it fails to mention that any performer who tested positive for an STI at an industry testing center would be prevented from working. Still, in their press release, AHF stated that this study “[confirms] the high STD risk performers face at work.” No, it doesn’t.
  • This abstract, released before the study began, shows that they went into the study looking for a specific result — that adult film performers are a threat to themselves and others — rather than an accurate one.
  • They didn’t get the numbers they wanted on other STIs, so they left them out. The initial proposal for the study stated an intention to study STIs including syphilis and HIV. They only released data on chlamydia and gonorrhea, suggesting that even with their skewed methodology, they couldn’t generate the evidence of the STI danger they wanted.
  • The additional data they released about prostitution and drug use has nothing do with safe workplaces, and everything to do with debasing adult film performers. Because they haven’t released the backing data or even the questions used, no one can even evaluate this for truth, or see how it correlates. There are good reasons this paper hasn’t found a publisher.
  • The data shows that porn performer have access to, and do often use condoms. Even in their own skewed study, almost a third of participants said they had used a condom on an adult film set in the past thirty days, which counters to their oft-repeated claim that performers denied condoms on set, and are “blacklisted” if they request one.
  • This is not the first time that AHF has released data that was flawed and had to be retracted. Or even the second time. In fact, AHF has a long history of using junk science to support political campaigns.

This report treats adult performers like pariahs, and has little to do with workplace conditions. It’s tremendously revealing about AHF true intention, and the lengths they’ll go to push this bill on performers. Wisely, adult performers are familiar with AHF’s tactics and have been vehement in their opposition to AB1576 from its inception. Over 600 performers have signed a petition asking legislators to vote against AB1576, because it will criminalize adult filmmaking and make their working conditions less safe.

It’s also worth noting that in introducing the study, Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that HIV is not his primary concern, STIs are. This is in stark contrast to everything he’s said for years, the people he has put forth at hearings, and the mission of his organization. It seems his own research is telling him what performers and producers have been trying to tell him — there hasn’t been a workplace transmission of HIV in the adult film industry in over ten years.

We look forward to the release of the actual numbers so that we can have an honest discussion about the real risks faced by adult performers, and how to best educate and protect them. We call on AHF to release the methodology and the raw data behind this study.

In the meantime, if you’re curious why performers oppose AB1576, check out this piece in Huffington Post by Casey Calvert.


Statement on the Appropriation Committee’s passage of California State Assembly Bill AB1576 from Diane Duke of the Free Speech Coalition

May 21, 2014

hashtag2Today, Isadore Hall and Michael Weinstein forced a bill on adult performers despite the vociferous opposition of the performers themselves. AB1576 denies performers control of their own body, their own sexuality, and their own privacy. Over five hundred performers have bravely come out in public opposition to this bill, despite Hall’s endless shaming. For the past few month, Hall has portrayed performers as a public health hazard, using discredited studies that read like Victorian pulp novels. This isn’t about protecting performers, this is a morality crusade aimed at driving a legal, regulated business out of the state and underground.

Hall never approached performers to find out what they wanted — he gave them what he wanted. That’s why the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Erotic Service Providers Union, the Center for Sex and Culture and the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and others joined the Free Speech Coalition in its opposition to a bill that strips performers of vital protections.

This bill will now go to the State Assembly. Make no mistake — we will fight it, and we will win. Hall’s attacks have unified the producers and performers in a way we haven’t seen since the culture wars of the 80s. We can not allow politicians to treat adult performers as disposable, to disregard very real concerns in favor of a paternalistic bill that criminalizes adult film. Hall has never been on an adult film set, he does not know how the industry works, he does not understand the concerns of adult performers — and he does not care. He has what he thinks is a political winner on his hands, and he’ll continue with it until he destroys what he claims he will protect.

It’s worth noting, of course, that AHF and Hall have spent millions of dollars and several years fighting HIV in adult film, despite the fact that there has not been on-set transmission of HIV on a regulated adult set in over ten years. Meanwhile, Hall’s own district has one of the highest rates of HIV mortality in the country, and does not contain one of his sponsor’s clinics. Crusading against porn stars may make for good headlines, but it makes for lousy policy. We didn’t ask for it, but we look forward to this fight.


Adult Performers, Performer Groups Announce Vehement Opposition to Condom Bill

May 19, 2014

AB1576 “shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy”

Nearly 500 adult performers have signed a petition asking legislators to vote no on AB1576, a bill that many performers say violates their privacy, and is so restrictive that hashtag2it would push a legal industry underground. For the first time, AB1576 would establish criminal penalties for not using a condom in an adult film, require producers to keep a log of a performer’s sexual activities, and force performers to waive their right to medical privacy.

Independent groups representing adult film stars, including the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and the Erotic Service Providers Union, have joined the 463 petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose AB1576. The petition will be presented in Sacramento on Wednesday at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

“This is an insulting and paternalistic bill,” said Lorelei Lee, a performer and one of the bill’s most vocal opponents. “This shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building. AB1576 squanders resources addressing a problem that doesn’t exist. If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

California State Assembly Bill AB1576 is the collaboration between Michael Weinstein, the controversial head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Assemblymember Isadore Hall, a Baptist minister. It is the third time they have attempted to advance such a bill.

“Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies,” said Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition. “We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults. More performers are signing this petition every day, and we look forward to presenting it Wednesday.”

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called AB1576 “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April and has been vociferous in her opposition to the bill. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

A delegation of performers, including Lee, will be heading to Sacramento on Tuesday to present the petition to legislators in advance of Wednesday’s hearing.


A Message from Performer/Director Lorelei Lee #StopAB1576

May 8, 2014

AB 1576 is otherwise known as the California “condom” bill that would require mandatory use of barrier protection and testing for ALL performers on adult movie production sets. The adult industry opposes this bill because:

  • Industry stakeholders (performers, studios, etc.) have no voice in this bill, which was introduced and is backed by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
  • Existing industry protocols for self-regulation, which took over a decade to develop, will be destroyed and will likely be replaced with less accurate tests for HIV and other STIs.
  • The performers – who will be most affected by this regulation – simply do not want mandated barrier protection, which includes condoms, dental dams, gloves, face shields and hazardous waste exposure-like procedures.
  • If passed, the regulations will drive adult producers to relocate to Nevada, or to other locations worldwide, where regulation will be difficult if not impossible.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s performer/director Lorelei Lee speaking out on why she opposes AB 1576.

The bill has passed through two legislative committees and is now on its way to the appropriation committee. If it passes there, AB1576 would go on to be voted on by the State Senate.

If you care about or enjoy adult entertainment, please share this information about condom laws in California. If you tweet, please use #stopAB1576. And if you need information for how to contact legislators, please email info@freespeechcoalition.com.


ADULT PRODUCTION MORATORIUM LIFTED

December 12, 2013

Final Test Results Come Up Negative; Performers May Return to Work After Retesting

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) announced today that all first-generation partners of the the performer who tested positive last week have been completed. There have been no further positive HIV tests within the performer pool. Production can resume on December 13.

The last at-risk interaction between the performer who tested positive and another performer occurred three weeks ago, on November 21. The testing window for the RNA-Aptima HIV test is 7-10 days. PASS doctors have since tested and retested that performer’s first generation contacts in the performer pool, on-set and off. None generated a positive test for HIV.

As previously announced, all performers must have retested in the PASS system on or after December 5  in order to be cleared to return to work. December 5 is fourteen days after the last at-risk interaction between the positive performer and any member of the performer pool, and beyond the 7-10 day window for the RNA-Aptima HIV test.

“While we understand that a moratorium is difficult for both performers and producers, it’s important that we’re cautious when dealing with HIV,” said Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition. “For nearly a decade, the combination of moratoriums and testing have been successful at preventing HIV transmission in the adult workplace. However, we must be always vigilant, and work to improve that record.”

The current moratorium was called on December 6, after an adult film performer came up HIV positive during a routine screening. Production was immediately halted while “first generation” contacts (those who had contact with the positive performer that could potentially transmit the virus) were tested. Adult performers are tested every fourteen days for a slate of STIs, including HIV.

Moratoriums are one of the most effective tools we have to protect adult performers, and allow us to stop HIV at the industry gates. We thank the performers and producers for observing the moratorium, and the performer who worked so closely with PASS to identify at-risk partners.

More on adult testing protocols and information on how moratoriums are determined can be found at FreeSpeechCoalition.com


Performer Testing Update #2

December 10, 2013

We spoke with the PASS testing facility doctors this morning, and want to issue an update on the current moratorium and testings.

Currently, all people who have had at-risk contact with the positive performer have been retested with the RNA Aptima test. At this point, we are awaiting one final test result from a performer who went to a personal physician whose testing system does not have as swift a turnaround time as industry clinics. If the results of that final are clear, we will establish a date to lift the moratorium. Until then, it remains in place.

A moratorium is only lifted after it is clear there is no threat of transmission.  Only after a genealogy of the virus is established, and all sexual partners have been tested, do the FSC and PASS receive clearance to allow performers to resume shooting.

If the final test comes back negative, FSC and PASS will set two dates: a date on which production can resume, and the date after which performers must show a negative test in order to be able to work. While we can not yet offer the former, we can announce the later: all performers must have a test dated December 5, 2013 or after in order to be cleared to work.

The HIV RNA Aptima test used by PASS has a 7-10 day window, meaning that it can identify HIV within 7-10 days of transmission. We wait at least 14 days after any possible exposure before lifting the moratorium for added accuracy, and to make sure that nothing was missed. The December 5 date is two weeks after the performer’s last at-risk contact with a member of the performer pool, on November 21.

The HIV RNA Aptima test is the most accurate test available. Because of its specificity and sensitivity a false positive (where a performer tests positive for HIV, but does not actually have it) will occur from time to time.  We have never encountered a false negative.

We only lift the moratorium if there is no medical reason for it to be extended. While most studios stockpile films and can weather a longer moratorium, individual performers often have to contend with a direct loss of income once shooting stops. We know this has been a difficult time for performers, both emotionally and financially. But we will lift the moratorium only when PASS doctors, using protocols outlined above, determine a safe date for production to resume.

We expect to have the results of that final test in the next few days. We will let you know as soon as we hear the results.


What You Know About The Porn Moratorium is All Wrong

December 9, 2013

By Diane Duke

On Friday, one of the testing facilities that serve the adult industry alerted us to a positive HIV test by an adult film performer. While we don’t yet know if the performer acquired the virus in his or her personal life, or while working in adult film, we’ve called a moratorium and immediately halted all production. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation in the media, and some truly reprehensible behavior on social media over the past few days, and felt it was necessary to explain how a moratorium works, and call for compassion for the positive performer.

A moratorium is a preventative measure used to protect adult performers. Over the past year, we’ve called two other moratoriums when performers who wished to work tested positive for HIV. In each case, the virus was acquired offset and was prevented from entering the performer pool by our testing system (known as PASS). Like a ringing car alarm, a moratorium is a sign of a working system, not a broken one. Adult performers — like all of us — have personal lives. We cannot control, and should not look to control, people’s private lives. What we can do is make sure that HIV is stopped at the gate by testing protocols.

Once a moratorium is called, all production stops so the genealogy of the virus can be traced. The performer who tested positive is interviewed. All sexual partners — on-screen or off — who fall within the transmission window are contacted and tested. This allows doctors to trace the transmission history of the virus: how it was acquired, if any other performers were exposed, and if there is any further threat to the performer pool. What doctors don’t disclose is the performer’s identity.

Sadly, almost immediately after the moratorium was called, members of the media began searching for the positive performer’s name, in what can be described as a witch hunt. This weekend, on social media and on blogs, a man was ‘outted’ as the positive performer. This is disgraceful.

First, we don’t know if the named performer was the source of the positive test or not. HIPPA regulations rightly prevent the testing clinic from disclosing a patient’s identity to anyone, even the Free Speech Coalition, unless the performer allows it. And we shouldn’t need to know a name. We only need to know if people are at risk. Everything else about the performer’s health should be between the performer, that performer’s partners, and a doctor.

HIV is a virus, not a moral issue. Yet both blogs and mainstream media unwittingly rushed to blame the victim. By assuming that adult film work is responsible for the virus, the mainstream media essentially resorts to slut-shaming. On the blogosphere and social media, it can be even worse — unfounded assumptions about escort work, or drug use, or “cross-over” sex (that is, sex with men or transgender performers) are the most common scapegoat. At a time when we most need to support someone in need, we rush to find a villain. I understand that at a difficult time like this, everyone wants to find an explanation. But in doing so, we must respect the performer’s privacy, and restrain ourselves from moralizing over a medical issue.

Whoever the performer is, we need to be there to support them — not shame or attack them. No matter how the virus was acquired, the performer is one of our own. If the performer does choose to speak publicly, the industry needs to rally behind him or her — perhaps provide interim support or help find work elsewhere in the business. An adult performer who tests positive for HIV faces not only a life-changing diagnosis, but the loss of his or her livelihood. If we truly care about performers, we need to do so not only when they are on a box cover, but also when they are at their most vulnerable.

Any positive test rightly spurs discussions as to how to make the industry safer for the performers. (Currently, every fourteen days, a performer must be tested for a full slate of STIs, including HIV, in order to be cleared to work in adult film.)  We can have honest disagreements as to how to best do this. I only ask that these discussions involve the performers themselves, rather than politicians and pundits who sometimes claim to speak for them. We have a vital, intelligent, engaged performer base with strong opinions about their own health and sexuality. We — the media, the industry, the doctors — need to listen to them, and accord them the respect they deserve.

Over the next few days, we’ll learn more about the current positive test. If the virus was prevented from entering the performer pool, retests will begin and the industry will slowly return to work. (Anyone who wants to understand the protocols by which this is determined is encouraged to visit our site.

I only hope that the discussions that come are substantive, not sanctimonious — and that everyone remembers that we’re dealing not with a cautionary tale or a talking point, but a real person who is struggling, and needs our compassion and support now more than ever. Thank you.


An FAQ about STIs, Testing and Moratoriums

December 8, 2013

200px-Trademark_License_FAQ.svgWe’ve noticed that there is a lot of confusion, both in the media and within the industry about how the decision to call a moratorium is made, how the dates are determined and what protocols are in place to protect adult performers.

HIV is a serious issue, and its important that we deal in facts, not fear or rumor, so we’ve prepared an FAQ to help people understand the process.

Are Adult Performers Tested for HIV?
Yes. Any performer who wants to work in the adult industry must test clear of STIs, including HIV, within fourteen days of their shoot date. Performers who work regularly generally test every two weeks at PASS-certified testing clinics.

What is the PASS system?
The PASS system is a descendant of AIM (Adult Industry Medical), a healthcare foundation created by a performer with the support of FSC to help protect against STIs. Under the PASS system, producers and directors check to confirm that the performer is cleared to perform in the PASS database within the past fourteen days. If a performer does not have a recent test, or shows any irregularity, he or she will not be cleared to perform.

What happens if a performer tests positive for HIV?
If an active performer tests positive for HIV, a moratorium is immediately called and the industry immediately halts all production.

How are moratoriums called?
The doctor at the PASS facility that conducted the test checks to see if that performer has worked on adult film since 2 weeks prior to his or her last negative test. If he or she has, the doctor alerts the Free Speech Coalition, and the Free Speech Coalition calls an industry-wide moratorium. Production is halted while everyone can be retested to make sure no performers are exposed to the virus.

What happens during a moratorium?
During a moratorium, film production stops while doctors work to determine if any one else was exposed, and to establish a genealogy of the virus.

All performers who have worked with or had sexual contact with the positive performer prior to performer’s last negative HIV test are tested and retested. In some cases, third generation partners may be tested as well. The goal is to immediately figure out if anyone else was exposed to the virus and to stop any potential on-set transmissions.

The HIV Positive performer is interviewed to determine the timeline and 1st generation partners. If the performer had sexual contact with other performers off-set, the PASS doctors and FSC will work to make sure those people are informed and tested as well as any other individuals with which the performer had sexual contact.

How is the decision made to lift the moratorium?
A moratorium is only lifted after it is clear there is no threat of transmission.

Only after a genealogy of the virus is established, and all sexual partners have been tested, do the FSC and PASS discuss whether it is safe for performers to resume shooting.

If the FSC and PASS determine that it is safe to lift the moratorium, they set a date on which production can resume. All performers must then retest in order to be cleared for work. The retests must happen no less than 14 days after the date the positive performer received his/her positive results or the date of the positive performer’s last sexual encounter with a performer.

The HIV RNA Aptima test used by PASS has a 7-10 day window, meaning that it can identify HIV within 7-10 days of transmission. However, we wait at least 14 days after any possible exposure before lifting the moratorium for added accuracy, and to make sure that nothing was missed.

Why not wait longer?
In some cases, we do. If there are any irregularities, or if we suspect that there may be any extant threat to the performer pool, we hold the moratorium. We only lift the moratorium if there is no medical reason for it to be extended. We try to balance performer safety with the performer’s desire to work. While most studios stockpile films and can weather a longer moratorium, individual performers often have to contend with a direct loss of income once shooting stops.

How accurate are the tests?
The HIV RNA Aptima test is the most accurate test available. Because of its specificity and sensitivity a false positive (where a performer tests positive for HIV, but does not actually have it) will occur from time to time. We have never encountered a false negative and understand the incidents of false negatives to be exceedingly rare.

What else do you test for before HIV?
PASS has an extremely rigorous testing protocol designed to reduce the risk of STIs

Performers test every 14 days for:

• HIV (by “PCR RNA Aptima”)
• Syphilis (an “RPR” and Trep-Sure test)
• Hepatitis B & C.
• Chlamydia (by “ultra-sensitive DNA amplification”)
• Gonorrhea (by “ultra-sensitive DNA amplification”)
• Trichomonias

Why not just use condoms?
Unfortunately, condoms aren’t perfect. They break. In the shoots that can take several hours, they can cause abrasions known as “condom rash,” which, paradoxically, can make it easier to transmit an infection if one does break. For this and a host of other reasons, performers generally prefer to rely on the testing system over condoms. You can read more about that here.


PERFORMER TESTING UPDATE

December 7, 2013
Minduka_AlertOn Friday, a performer who had worked in the adult industry tested positive for HIV during the mandated fourteen-day industry screening. Since then, there has been a lot of speculation about the performer — including a name — in both social media and on blogs, a fair amount of it unfounded and some of it ugly. The performer deserves privacy and dignity at this difficult time, and we ask that our colleagues and the media respect the performer’s wishes for privacy unless he or she wishes to speak.

Understandably, the larger performer pool is concerned about whether they’ve been affected or exposed. Due to HIPAA regulations, the PASS doctor working with the performer can not discuss any specifics of the performer’s case with the public, or even with us, so be wary of rumors. We can, however, tell you this:

  •     All first-generation contacts (people with whom the performer had contact, on-set or off, that could have transmitted the virus, within the window of the last negative test) have been contacted and tested.
  •     We should have all results of those tests by early next week. We’ll alert you as we know.
  •     The positive performer is working with the testing doctors to determine a timeline and genealogy of the virus, and to determine if the performer pool was exposed.

That said, we want to remind those who would point fingers — either at the performer or his or her work — is that HIV is a virus, not a moral issue. It affects all people, and all populations, and occupations; all of them deserve compassion. Whoever this performer is, he or she is one of our own, and should be treated with the same respect and dignity that we’d want for ourselves in this situation.

We will release more information as we are able.

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