Posted April 3, 2014 8:53 AM by with 25 comments

Yesterday, California State Assembly Bill AB1576 cleared its first hurdle and moved past the Labor and Employment Committee. If passed, the bill would require porn producers in California to not only use condoms, but require testing and screen out any HIV-positive performers. Most of the attention has been focused on the “straight” side of the industry, which currently uses 14-day testing system and now would be required to use condoms as well. But the bill’s affect on the gay porn — and gay men — could be even greater.

Currently, the gay porn industry has no unified policy toward HIV. Some bareback gay porn studios, like Treasure Island, celebrate HIV positive performers and allow them to perform without condoms. Other gay porn producers use testing systems similar to the straight side, or serosort (matching positive with positive, negative with negative). Others use condoms exclusively, not only to prevent the transmission of HIV, but also to keep from having to discriminate against HIV positive performers. AB1576 would not only legally require condoms be used in all productions, but it would also seem to keep HIV positive performers from having sex on camera — regardless of whether they used a condom.

The gay community’s relationship with HIV — and HIV discrimination — is much more nuanced than the straight industry. Reading through some of the straight porn news blogs — the equivalents of sites like Gay Porn Blog and The Sword — is like stepping back in time to 1983.  I’ll spare you the nastiest bits, but it boils down to “HIV is a gay disease brought to the straight industry by crossover (bisexual) performers, who should be outted and exiled.” While we’ve spent the last 30 years learning to mitigate risk, to talk viral load and PrEP,  and informed consent, they still take up pitchforks against us to protect innocent white women.

Bill AB1576 will force HIV Discrimination

AB1576 Sponsor Isadore Hall

I wish I could say it was different on the political side. But AB1576 is essentially a legislative outgrowth of these same fears. As unbelievable as it seems, given the screaming headlines, the straight industry has not had an on-set transmission of HIV since 2004. But for right-wing bloggers and politicians, HIV is forever lurking at the door. So AB1576, a bill designed with vulnerable women in mind, requires both condoms and testing. While that may make straight people feel safer (and politicians feel grander), it would essentially require the gay porn industry to fire anyone with HIV. 

There was a time when I was vigorously opposed to bareback porn. I was — and still am — vigorously in support of workplace safety. However, I also know that there’s something wrong in having the state say tell gay men that regardless of viral load, regardless of whether they use a condom in their personal life, regardless of the actual science, or whether you’ve discussed status with your partner, or whether you’re wearing a condom, that if you’re HIV-positive you need to be cast out. (Update: Or outted.)

Nevermind that in the past few months, several studies have come out showing that it’s near impossible to transmit the virus from someone with an undetectable viral load, or to someone who is taking a medication like Truvada. This bill — and the moral panic behind it — is from another era.

Perhaps not surprisingly, AB1576 is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a controversial LA-based lobby that is similarly opposed to medication like Truvada and has used its high-profile attacks on the porn industry to drive a huge increase in fundraising.

Yesterday, I testified in Sacramento against the bill (only to be shut down from the Chair). Instead, what the committee heard — and voted on — was the testimony of two performers, Rod Daily and Cameron Bay, who contracted HIV in their personal life. Nevermind that the bill wouldn’t have prevented either seroconversion (Daily performed exclusively in condom scenes, and everyone that Bay ever performed with tested negative). The committee hearings were part sermon, part scare tactics about the evils of pornography. Science was left at the door. If the bill passes, so too will gay men and three decades of progress against HIV.

UPDATE: We just heard back from lawyers who state that the bill doesn’t actually require you to test NEGATIVE for HIV (or chlamydia, syphilis, herpes). I suspect it’s because you can’t require anyone to disclose such information without violating HIPPA regulations. So the requirement is just that you test for it every two weeks, and then … use it as a paper airplane? Present it for inspection? Smoke it? It doesn’t actually say, which makes the whole thing seem even more asinine. You’ll have to forgive my not-so-prescient legal analysis of a bill that doesn’t make much logical sense.

—  Mike

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25 responses to UPDATED: Would New Bill Force HIV Discrimination in Gay Porn?

  1. Seaguy April 3rd, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    A bad bill pushed by a bad man, Michael Weinstein who runs the AHF.

    Reply

  2. Jake April 3rd, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Are you high? This bill is 100% necessary. Not only des it send a reinforced message that safe sex is a requirement to stop the spread of HIV, it protects against other disease as well. Most of the performers escort to make ends meet, and escorting can spread more disease than porn performing. I’m a former performer who left when the HIV regs were getting too fast and loose. Why TIM exists I’ll never know-who wants to watch skeletons fuck- but the whole attitude of breeding and seroconversion should be treated as attempted murder. I’ve lost too many friends from studios that didn’t insist on testing or using condoms. It’s a fucking condom guys… It’s been almost 30 years if seeing them in porn. Why haven’t you gotten used to them ( in porn and IRL ) yet?

    Reply

    • Mike April 3rd, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Read the piece. It’s not about condoms. It’s about discrimination against people are positive — whether or not they have a detectable viral load, whether or not they use a condom. It’s bad enough that it happens in the straight industry, but as gay men, we should know the danger of misinformation about HIV.

      Reply

    • RuggerSF April 3rd, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      I call bullshit on your entire post. Fucking internet troll. Go guard another bridge you pathetic excuse for a human being.

      Reply

    • MrPurdue April 3rd, 2014 at 5:14 PM

      @tom, No, you’re not the only one. Let them be a guinea pigs.

      Reply

  3. Hugh April 3rd, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Hold up – if you’re an actor doing a scene with condoms does the studio tell you if the other actor(s) are positive? What sort of testing do condom only studios do.

    Reply

  4. tom trumble April 3rd, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    I’m sorry but am I the only person who thinks this could actually be a good thing? I have nothing against people who have HIV, but I don’t have sex with them. I would assume there’s a lot of gay porn stars out there who are HIV negative and want to stay that way. I don’t know the exact statistic, but even condoms aren’t 100% effective in preventing the spread of AIDS.

    Reply

    • RuggerSF April 3rd, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      The stupid is strong in you.

      Reply

    • Aramis April 3rd, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      I’m with you ( Congratulations. You wrote the same things that I’m thinking )

      Reply

      • Aramis April 3rd, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        My reply is to ‘tom trumble’.

        Reply

  5. Luke April 3rd, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Straight porn does not hire HIV positive performers. Why would gay performers settle for less? Are gay lives worth less? Why would one porn world act different than the other? Is HIV now a given for being gay? Many in gay porn want you to believe that sadly. Look at one major star retirement this month from gay porn. He is negative and one of the biggest stars and was discriminated against because he was negative!
    Wake up people!

    Reply

    • Mike April 3rd, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      Are you crazy? Who was discriminated against for being negative? All the positive people who were afraid he’d turn them negative? Surely you might want to alert the CDC.

      HIV is not a given, but neither is it a reason for discrimination and stigmatization. There are ways to protect yourself and your partners that don’t require shaming people for a medical condition.

      Reply

      • Luke April 3rd, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        Read the Sword. The BIGGEST gay porn star just retired after over a decade in the bizz. Openly discussed being discriminated for being negative. Most gay porn star directors and performers and positive and hate the ones that are negative. Wake up! If this was not true… every porn star would be performing for gay porn’s biggest site.

        Reply

      • Luke April 3rd, 2014 at 6:00 PM

        Not shaming anyone for being HIV poz. Stop twisting words. But should you engage in oral cum shots, facial cum shots if you are HIV poz? That is how gay porn acts today. Ask the former Raging Stallion exclusive who left them years ago because everyone around him was poz and it was too overwhelming to work there. Not my words….his!

        Reply

  6. Samuel Colt April 3rd, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    I’m sorry but PReP and undetectable viral loads change this whole equation. SAFER SEX has evolved, and a condom and a test are not the safest you can be anymore. The discussion (in porn or real life) should not be “Are you HIV Positive?” but the discussion should be “Do you manage your health?” and “Are you undetectable?”

    Reply

    • Mike April 3rd, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      Exactly.

      Reply

    • Jack April 3rd, 2014 at 6:06 PM

      I was hopping a voice of reason would chime in here. Hi Samuel!

      Reply

      • mr. Pam April 10th, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        me too! yay! Thanks Samuel!

        Sorry to ruin it for you guys, but I’d say about half, or more than half of gay porn performers are positive. And when I do interviews of new people wanting in the business, its about half as well.
        One out of 6 gay men in San Francisco is positive.

        We wouldn’t have such a thriving porn industry without HIV positive models. Condoms work. Looks like PrEP does too!

        Its the world we live in and we cannot afford to discriminate against people for their HIV status – positive or negative.
        its about communication, leading a “healthy life” and education.

        Reply

    • Jack April 4th, 2014 at 7:46 AM

      And if they don’t manage their health nor are they undetectable, what then? Undetectable doesn’t mean non-infectious. The risk is lower but not negligible. Plus there are other diseases besides HIV that are sexually transmitted. Advocating Travuda for pre-exposure prophylaxis neglects the fact that it costs thousands of dollars to be on this continually and many people are non-compliant with taking a medication daily.

      Reply

  7. Jay April 3rd, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    How do 2 HIV positive men having consensual condom less sex affect anyone in anyway?. If you hate bareback sex, don’t watch it or have it, simple as that. But shocking as it might seem to you, many people enjoy it, and that’s their right. Just like others like to watch bareback sex and choose not not practice it in their personal life. There’s simply no reasonable valid argument to keep HIV positive men from doing bareback porn WITH EACH OTHER, if there’s one I’d like to hear it. Telling two adult HIV-positive men they can’t have sex with each other simply because it makes other people uncomfortable makes about as much sense as the Religious Right’s argument that 2 gay people getting married is going to have an effect on other people’s marriage: NONE.

    Reply

  8. Aramis April 3rd, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    If questions like ” Do you manage your health ?” ( an euphemism to mask STDs… ) or ” Are you undetectable? ( ‘undetectable’ to mask HIV… ) will be the way to make a selection it’s easy to see how lower the level of this selection will be. More like make charity with the infected than run a business ( as porn is supposed to be ). Better make sex with healthy people instead the infected but ‘ undetectable ‘ ones because ‘ undetectable ‘ isn’t the same as sane and seems to be a choice that only the careless or desperate for cash would do and people who whatch porn will be more confortable seeing it. Porn is perceived as a sleazy business so this would be a way to make people match lifting the level not lowering it.

    Reply

  9. anyhoo April 4th, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    It’s stupid that this is even being questioned. This is an infectious fucking disease people! And no one has a handle on it yet. The drugs that have managed to mask the disease, but not actually cure anything, have fooled many people into believing that HIV is no longer a problem. The truth is that HIV has skyrocketed, particularly among those under 30. Maybe it’s because they haven’t seen the kind of horror that the AIDS crisis inflicts. Maybe it’s because the disease appears manageable. Maybe it’s because BB sex is a common thing again. But whether you are HIV+ or HIV-, let’s be honest. This is a virus that needs to be stopped. And you fucking morons who are promoting BB sex in the name of commerce (Treasure Island, Sean Cody, and all the other scuzzy studios) aren’t helping the gay community one fucking bit.

    Reply

    • LR April 4th, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      @anyhoo
      You are absolutely right!

      Reply

  10. Claude April 13th, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    The so-called “update” shows that the whole premise of the article is false. Clearly the author never read the bill before writing the article yet now this article is being reprinted and/or linked to from other sites. This is the definition of irresponsible journalism. The only thing the law requires is testing every two weeks. The test done in the industry for HIV measures the virus, not antibodies, so it can show a recent infection in as little as 2 weeks or less, thus the reason for the 2 week requirement. The first time I took that test at Magnet in San Francisco I was somewhat taken aback when the result came back, not negative or positive but “undetectable”. As long as I remained negative, that’s not a word I ever expected to hear as a test result. But then it made perfect sense. The test is measuring viral load. Duh!

    Although the law does not mandate any particular remedy, the worst one SHOULD be that anyone who has a detectable viral load, just like someone who tests positive for STIs like Syphilis or Gonorrhea, not work until their tests come back undetectable for HIV or negative for other STIs. And even that is not mandated as long as condoms are used and the other models are informed of the risks. If someone is fired for being HIV positive they can bring a discrimination lawsuit. Though a win is not guaranteed because the law makes exceptions when there is a legitimate risk of transmission, given the current scientific knowledge about the risk of transmission for people with HIV with an undetectable viral load, this might be the perfect time for a test case in court.

    I fully support this law. On the condom issue (but definitely NOT on Truvada), I support AHF and Michael Weinstein. I feel the acceptance of barebacking (both in porn and more importantly – but not unrelatedly – in real life) is a stain on the gay community just like, as a black man, I feel the acceptance of music that glorifies violence, misogyny and homophobia is a stain on the black community.

    Reply

  11. Claude April 13th, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    The so-called “update” shows that the whole premise of the article is false. Clearly the author never read the bill before writing the article yet now this article is being reprinted and/or linked to from here and other websites. This is the definition of irresponsible journalism. The only thing the law requires is testing every two weeks. The test done in the industry for HIV measures the virus, not antibodies, so it can show a recent infection in as little as 2 weeks or less, thus the reason for the 2 week requirement. The first time I took that test at Magnet in San Francisco I was somewhat taken aback when the result came back, not negative or positive but “undetectable”. As long as I remained negative, that’s not a word I ever expected to hear as a test result. But then it made perfect sense. The test is measuring viral load. Duh!

    Although the law does not mandate any particular remedy, the worst one SHOULD be that anyone who has a detectable viral load, just like someone who tests positive for STIs like Syphilis or Gonorrhea, not work until their tests come back undetectable for HIV or negative for other STIs. And even that is not mandated as long as condoms are used and the other models are informed of the risks. If someone is fired for being HIV positive they can bring a discrimination lawsuit. Though a win is not guaranteed because the law makes exceptions when there is a legitimate risk of transmission, given the current scientific knowledge about the risk of transmission for people with HIV with an undetectable viral load, this might be the perfect time for a test case in court.

    I fully support this law. On the condom issue (but definitely NOT on Truvada), I support AHF and Michael Weinstein. I feel the acceptance of barebacking (both in porn and more importantly – but not unrelatedly – in real life) is a stain on the gay community just like, as a black man, I feel the acceptance of music that glorifies violence, misogyny and homophobia is a stain on the black community.

    Reply

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