An Interview With AHF Founder Michael Weinstein

In Advocacy by AHF

by Mike South

Thank You for taking the time to answer my questions, I think there are a lot of things abut all of this that are misunderstood.

1> You have been around the adult industry for quite a while but most people in the biz only know anything of you from the whole Measure B thing so first tell me a little about who you are, where you came from, what you do, and why you do it.

Actually, I have not been around the business before I became involved in this Issue. I was a cofounder of the AIDS Hospice Foundation in 1987 which became AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We gave a dignified death to thousands before we began opening out-patient clinics in 1990. Today we care for more than 180,000 patients in 26 countries. I do what I do because it is incredibly gratifying to see the progress that has been made in the fight against AIDS and because we still have a long way to go in winning the war.

What was the motivation behind getting Measure B on the ballot? It is already a requirement under Cal-OSHA to use condoms, why wasn’t the state enforcing that?

CalOSHA will never have the capability to enforce their condom requirement. Legally they can only respond to complaints. The County has the primary responsibility for public health and disease control in Los Angeles.

We hear over and over that the industry generates between 4 and 12 billion dollars a years, why do you think they couldn’t (according to them) raise enough money to effectively fight Measure B?

It seems like everyone was expecting someone else to foot the bill and I think the industry was in denial about how much public support we had from day one.

I was opposed to Measure B but my opposition was admittedly soft, primarily for Libertarian reasons, either way it ended it took away choice for performers, I personally preferred more of a civil approach than a criminal one. My choice would have been mandatory condoms on every set but allow performers to opt out by signing a waiver. I would have provided severe civil remedies for anyone who was discriminated against based on that choice, why wasn’t something like that considered, or was it?

I had several factory jobs in my youth where I was required to wear protective gear. I didn’t have a choice and it made it very difficult to meet the production quota. Dentists must wear latex gloves; construction workers wear hard hats; machinists wear goggles. Why should porn performers be different?

The industry claims that it is the most tested and safest workforce in the world, I have yet to see a single study that bears that out, quite the opposite, every study I have seen indicates that while the HIV rate is low other STIs are orders of magnitude higher. Many of the performers who talked to me off the record indicated that they were in favor of Measure B but wouldn’t risk coming out because it’s difficult enough to get work now as it is. Other performers maintained that Measure B is an encroachment on their civil liberties. What would you say to the performers.

A major aspect of AHF’s mission is promoting sexual health. AHF has a very large national STD program. B was never primarily about HIV, but all the other STDs. The No campaign’s attacks on the credible scientific studies that document epidemic levels of STDs in porn damaged their credibility. Civil liberties do not trump workplace safety. Anyone can do anything they want on camera as long as they are not paid for doing it. If they are paid, workplace safety applies.

Hindsight being 20/20 and all why do you think the FSC was ineffective in getting Measure B defeated, what was their biggest problem?

I feel that the No side ran a very good campaign. They emphasized their editorial endorsements and argued the potential damage to the local economy which resonated with many voters. But, there is no argument that I can imagine that would have won in Los Angeles. We started with a huge advantage in the polls which the No side managed to reduce somewhat.

Do you think measure B will survive the legal challenges including a constitutional challenge?

I am not a lawyer but it is hard to imagine how a constitutional challenge would prevail. There are all kinds of regulation that apply to the making of mainstream films that have held up over the decades. B does not control content, only safety.

Fabian Thylmann claims that because Digital Playground is owned by Manwin Canada that DP is exempt from the condom law. Larry Flynt says he will simply shoot outside of L.A. County. Michael Fattarosi says the law is poorly written and there are many loopholes like when performers shoot for free and the money is paid to cover expenses or written as a “donation” or they can go to cities like Pasadena that have their own health departments and aren’t bound by measure b even if they are in Los Angeles County. How would you respond to these people?

The only option that the industry is not discussing is compliance with what is now state, county and city law – condoms. I have no way of knowing if they will find successful ways of evading these laws. It is the government’s job to interpret and enforce the law. AHF has done what it set out to do. We have confirmed that condoms for vaginal and anal sex are the only effective way to prevent the majority of STDs. We have also established that the lives of performers are not expendable.

The biggest issue facing the industry isn’t condoms, it is piracy, what steps would you take to defeat that threat?

I don’t know enough about the piracy issue to comment.

The 1600 employees of AHF across the globe are responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives. While the industry may disagree with us on condoms, demonizing AHF disrespects our dedicated staff and dishonors the memory of the multitude of men, women and children we have cared for for almost three decades.

I hope this interview helps to clarify, to performers in particular, where AHF is coming from.

San Francisco Chronicle: Polk Street, S.F.
The Guardian: LA County's Measure B is a major win for safe sex in adult entertainment