LOS ANGELES—In a portion of today's edition of National Public Radio's long-running series All Things Considered, the subject of condom use in the adult industry came up—and of course, the report featured two of the major voices in the controversy: Vivid Video head Steve Hirsch and AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein.
Guess which one told the truth?
"Weinstein points out that performers can have sex in between the time they get tested and when they make a film," read the story on the NPR website, which closely tracked the broadcast. "That can raise the risk for spread of disease. Since 2004, Weinstein says, nearly two dozen adult film performers in Southern California have tested positive for HIV."
In fact, besides the "Patient Zero" of the 2004 HIV outbreak, Darren James, just three (3) people became infected with HIV. The higher numbers—16, 18, 19, 22, 28—that have been bandied about in the media, including reporting in the Los Angeles Times, have all been confirmed to be incorrect. There have been NO other HIV transmissions on hetero adult industry movie sets since 2004—and Weinstein knows it. So far, however, there has been no correction posted by AHF in the comments section of the NPR site.
On the other hand, during the broadcast, Hirsch candidly explained why mandatory condom use, which Vivid itself practiced for seven years, has fallen out of favor.
"When we became a mandatory-condom company, we saw sales drop by about 20 percent," Hirsch told KPCC reporter Alex Cohen.
"If girls choose to have condoms used in their scenes, then obviously we accommodate them," Hirsch continued. "And some girls choose to and most girls don't. ... People will shoot in Europe; people will shoot in Mexico. People will go to other places to shoot [if condom use becomes mandatory] and you'll see an industry move out of this state."
Indeed, as even Cal/OSHA inspector Deborah Gold admits, "porn film shoots can be hard to track down; many occur in private locations instead of at a big studio."
But none of that makes a difference to Weinstein, who told NPR, "HIV isn't the only lifelong infection. You have herpes among many of the performers; women who are getting chlamydia, which is making them infertile. Or other diseases which may make them susceptible to cervical cancer."
What Weinstein didn't mention—or if he did, NPR failed to report it—is that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported just two months ago that fully 16 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes, the overwhelming majority of whose sufferers didn't contract the condition on a porn set; that chlamydia only makes a woman unfertile if left untreated (which among adult performers would be a maximum of 30 days under current testing protocols); and that the industry's main testing facility, AIM Healthcare, vaccinates performers against HPV, the primary virus that makes women susceptible to cervical cancer—but once again, according to the CDC, "At least 50 percent of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives"—and again, the overwhelming majority of those will not have contracted the virus on a porn set.
So what's likely to cause less harm? A protocol which requires that performers test for a variety of STDs every 30 days, where condom use is optional, and at least in Vivid's case, where sex toys are used once and then discarded—or the Weinstein plan, where condom use is made mandatory for adult video shoots in California, and the industry either begins shooting outside the state (and possibly outside the United States), or returns to its roots of shooting surreptitiously in isolated locations in California, with performers who, since they're breaking the law anyway, won't be getting tested on a regular basis—and won't be using any condoms at all, ever again?