A Q&A with James Lee on Measure B; AHF Stats Are Flawed He Says

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from www.examiner.com – On November 6, 2012, when Americans head to his or her polling place to vote for their elected officials and local initiatives, Los Angeles County, California will be voting on something no one else in the nation will be- Should porn actors be required to wear condoms during the production of adult films?

The ballot initiative, Los Angeles Porn Actors Required to Wear Condoms Act, Measure B has produced a very distinct battle line between those that support the measure and those who oppose it. James Lee, communications director for “No on Measure B” answered some questions concerning the opposition with the Infectious Disease Examiner Oct. 16.

Robert Herriman- Many medical and public health institutions, including the American Medical Association are in favor of condom use in pornographic films. They cite studies saying that pornography performers are much more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections. How do you respond to this?

James Lee- The core basis of all of these studies is an interpretation of LA County Dept. of Public Health data by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which is unfortunately deeply flawed by bad statistical analysis.

For example, it looks at all reported infections from the industry, but doesn’t differentiate from those wanting to work for the first time, but are turned away because of infections, vs. reported infections from everyday performers.

The distinction is important because the testing protocol stops people from even entering into the profession if they tested positive. The only source of industry data is what the industry publicly reports to the County so AHF has misinterpreted that data in order to bolster its claims. A leading epidemiologist examined the AHF data study and took it apart point by point. We can provide that for you if you wish.

RH- The proponents of Measure B include medical experts like Dr. Jeffrey Klausner who believe condoms are necessary to protect the public health. Does your side, the opponents of the initiative, have infectious disease experts that oppose the measure based on the infectious disease data and risk?

JL- Yes, physicians include Dr. Peter Miao, infectious disease specialist and Dr. Randall Weissbuch. Dr. Miao has been principal investigator on a number of clinical trials for HIV suppression drug therapies and authored papers on the topic and is chair of the Infection Control Committee at Sherman Oaks Hospital and Medical Center.

Their opposition is based on the core belief that aggressive testing for detection as a primary infection control factor has been sufficient when coupled with utilizing the latest in biotech testing, such as PCR/RNA Aptima for HIV which only has a 7-11 day window on a 14 or 28 day cycle, as well as participation by a performer community that maintains non-risky behavior in their personal lives. This is why the industry has experienced not a single on-set HIV infection since 2004. When you compare that with the number of scenes shot, it’s staggering how low the infection rate is compared to the general population (6,447 HIV infections in LA County over a three year period).

RH- How do you think the recent media publicity of the Mr. Marcus syphilis case will affect the public’s perception and eventual vote?

JL- I don’t think it will affect it at all. First of all, we never claimed to have a zero infection rate. That’s impossible. No one can guarantee that in their profession, not even cheerleading where 22 cheerleaders have died in an activity as innocuous as that. But the reason why Mr. Marcus’ case is important is that the system works in catching infections.

In this case, someone had to purposely try to evade it, but unlike the Tour de France or even Major League Baseball, we’ve corrected our testing to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Not only that, the industry responded aggressively by shutting down production and requiring every performer to be tested and treated.

Imagine if McDonalds shut done all its restaurants nationwide if one worker came down with hepatitis A and you get an idea of how aggressive the industry is in responding.

RH- Do you believe this is basically a political move by opponents of the industry, to possibly drive the industry out of town, for example?

JL- Of course. When you consider there is no public health hazard since porn stars are only having sex with each other not only on the camera, but off the camera in their personal lives and that testing has kept infections at an absurdly low level, you have to ask why the obsession to punish porn?

Given AHF’s use of terms like “pornographers” to describe the industry, comparing performers to workers in Nevada brothels and intimating that porn companies would use underage minors if given the opportunity (yes, Michael Weinstein himself made that claim), you can only think their zeal is motivated by a desire to abolish porn.

RH- I understand the Free Speech Coalition and opponents of Measure B says the initiative is a waste of tax dollars, can you please elaborate.

JL- The LA County Dept. of Public Health has estimated the initial start-up costs to administer the permitting and inspection program at $300,000 alone, but the additional costs to hire inspectors, chase down productions that don’t apply for a permit and enforce against them could have the program’s costs skyrocketing.

That’s why the estimates for permit fees have bounced around to from $3,000 to upwards of $50,000 because nobody knows how to enforce this measure. Also, the industry has made it plain that it plans on moving production out of LA should Measure B pass, taking with it an estimated 10,000 jobs and over $1 billion in local tax revenue and economic activity. Therefore, you get a double whammy of increased government costs and declining tax revenue for a county that is already in the red.

RH- I guess the key question is, how do you convince an L.A. County public who may naturally think, “Of course mandatory condom use in adult films makes sense to protect performers and the public health in general”?

JL- What we have found in talking to voters is that the initial support for the idea of condoms quickly evaporates once they find out how often performers are tested, that performers don’t want it and the costs associated both in bigger government and lost jobs and tax revenue. Not to mention the halo effect of so many other tax increases on the November ballot making voter sentiment strong for across the board no votes. Also the Democratic Party has declined to endorse Measure B, while the Republican and Libertarian parties have both endorsed the No side.

Thank you James for taking the time to talk to me and answer these questions.

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