Liar liar pants on fire, hanging from a telephone wire! - Traditional children’s taunt
Poor, innocent Derrick Burts says he was misled by the porn industry; he claims that he was never really informed of the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and that he contracted HIV during oral sex in a gay porn shoot in Florida. He claims that the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) told him that they’d traced his infection to a “known positive” but wouldn’t tell him who it was, and denied AIM’s public statement that he contracted HIV through personal activity. ”That’s completely false,” Burts said Tuesday (December 7th ); ”There is no possible way. The only person I had sex with in my personal life was my girlfriend.” He claims that AIM warned him against contacting the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), and that he only went (anonymously, of course) to an AHF center in Los Angeles on November 24th after AIM “neglected” him: ”AIM promised they would help me set up a doctor and get treatment,” he said. ”They did none of that.” He claims that he never identified himself as “Patient Zeta” (the code name used to protect his privacy until he outed himself last Tuesday), but was so pleased with the care he received from AHF that he contacted the organization and offered to speak out in favor of mandatory condom use in porn: “AIM likes to state that testing is enough. That’s completely false,” he said, adding that before he tested positive for HIV he had also contracted chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes. “It’s very dangerous,” he said of adult film work. ”It should be required that you wear a condom on the set.” All in all, he claims lots of things which might make established industry procedures look pretty bad…if he wasn’t such a poor liar.
In my column of December 9th I insinuated that Burts’ so-called “girlfriend” is actually a “beard”, slang for a woman used by a gay man who for some reason wishes to pass himself for straight; I also wrote, “His claim that AIM told him that he contracted HIV through oral sex (despite the fact that, as I have said before, there has never been a single documented case of oral HIV transmission) is even less credible than his claim…that he wasn’t screwing other guys outside of film sets.” At the time, that was just an educated guess fueled by instinct; now I have proof thanks to this article published in the LA Weekly yesterday. Behold the ad “Derek Chambers” (Burts’ gay porn stage name) placed on Rentboy, a gay escort site, in which he promises a “hott session” [sic] and boasts that he is “AIM tested”. So much for “The only person I had sex with in my personal life was my girlfriend.” Raise hands, who still believes he contracted HIV on a film set? It’s pretty obvious that Burts is a conniving little liar whose dangerous off-camera choices endangered everyone he worked with, but when the piper’s bill arrived he tried to stick AIM with it. And given AHF’s sleazy tactics and Burts’ proven disinclination toward veracity, does anyone believe that this coat-turning was as innocent and selfless as it was represented to be?
Governments, however, care nothing about truth and are perfectly happy to hop into bed with anyone who promises them even the smallest particle of increased power; AIM was shut down by California and Los Angeles County officials the morning after Burts and AHF held their press conference. The following is paraphrased from a story which appeared in the LA Weekly on Thursday (December 9th):
The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) was served with a cease and desist order today and Los Angeles County authorities shut it down, according to California public health spokesman Al Lundeen. The shutdown comes on the heels of an HIV-positive performer’s outcry against the clinic and industry, though the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), who sponsored Burts’ press conference, claims there is no direct connection between the events: “It truly is a coincidence that this took place the same day [sic] as Derrick Burts came forward to tell his story,” said Michael Weinstein, the president of AHF.
Steven Hirsch, founder of Vivid Entertainment (the country’s largest adult studio), said Vivid would continue with production despite AIM’s closure. “We have been in contact with AIM and believe that the current situation is temporary and will be quickly remedied. There are other alternatives that we can utilize in the meantime and will do so. We believe the current system of testing works. Our productions will proceed as scheduled.”
Lundeen confirmed this view, saying that AIM submitted an application for a state community clinic permit in June after the state told AIM officials that such a license was required. He said the clinic’s application for a license was denied on Tuesday, but that the grounds for denial were a lack of proper paperwork, including a “transfer agreement” that would tell the state it had an agreement with an area hospital to accept patients it wasn’t qualified to treat. Lundeen made it sound as if AIM would be up and running soon and that its denial was based on a minor technicality. “We’re working with the facility to meet the requirements under the law as quickly as possible,” he said.
But even if Weinstein and his group truly had nothing to do with AIM’s closure, he was quick to seize upon it to advance his agenda; he called on porn producers to shut down shoots while this mess is worked out, and insisted that the city’s film permitting organization, FilmLA, stop issuing permits to porn productions and that the county shut down all existing productions in the name of “safety.” He especially demanded that the city of Los Angeles deny film permits to the biggest studios, including Vivid and Hustler. “This is the touchstone moment,” he said. “This is the tipping point. The adult film industry needs to be shut or use condoms starting today…the people who come out flagrantly and say we’re never going to use condoms, like Larry Flynt and Steven Hirsch, they should never issue permits to them,” Weinstein said.
The state requires technically does require porn performers to use condoms, but the industry has resisted because customers don’t like seeing them and California workplace health officials have said they don’t have the resources to enforce the law. And while Burts claims he got HIV on-set, some people have come forward to note that he’s offered his services as a male escort. The last HIV scare in porn, in 2004, happened when an actor claimed to have contracted the virus from a heterosexual film shoot outside of AIM’s testing protocols — in Brazil. Some doubted that story as well.
If it’s true that AIM’s license was denied due to a technicality, why the grandstand play? Was it really necessary to send cops to shut down a clinic due to incomplete paperwork? Can any reasonable person believe that it was due to mere happenstance that an application pending since June just happened to come up for review the day a patient accused the clinic of wrongdoing, and that it was somehow in the public interest for Los Angeles County to ostentatiously humiliate AIM with third-world dictatorship tactics rather than simply having a secretary call them to say, “Hey, we need one more document to complete your application; can you fax that over today?” It’s pretty obvious that decisions are being made behind the scenes which will strongly affect the industry, yet as so often happens with sex workers those who have the ear of authorities (in this case, AHF) presume to speak for us yet never bother to consult us about what we might actually want. With this in mind, St. James Infirmary is hosting a community forum for adult film performers this Thursday night, with an eye toward giving them a voice in the process; though I doubt the state and county will be easily persuaded from the course they seem set upon, at least the lies of Burts, Weinstein and company won’t go completely unchallenged.