The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is hoping
that a recent outbreak of HIV cases allegedly linked
to the adult entertainment industry will help them
find a sponsor for a bill to mandate condom use in
The mandatory condoms-in-porn bill has been part of the Board’s legislative agenda since late last year. So far,
19 legislators have turned them down, according to Los
Angeles County’s chief lobbyist, Dan Wall.
But most of those rejections came before an active
adult film actress tested positive for HIV on June
6. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
(DPH) said it
is investigating several other cases of current and
former performers who have also tested positive.
“We are still in the game, but the odds are long because
it’s late in the session and this bill is emotionally
and politically charged,” Wall said.
A spokesman for the industry called any talk of a mandatory
condom bill “premature.”
“All indications are that the industry regulations are
working,” said Ignacio Hernandez, lobbyist for the Free Speech
Coalition. “This single incident is still under investigation to
see what, if anything, went wrong. We would hope that
no one would move forward with sweeping legislation
until we know all the facts. We have a five-year track record of no incidents.”
The mandatory use of condoms has been criticized by
many within the adult industry, who say consumers do
not want them because they interfere with the “fantasy” aspect of the entertainment. One outspoken critic
of requiring condom use has been Hustler publisher
Larry Flynt, prompting the OC Weekly to ask in a recent
what the Pope and Larry Flynt “have in common?”
The industry currently operates without any specific
regulations, only a set of voluntary guidelines that
calls for performers to be tested for HIV every 30 days. Groups calling for condom use on sets, such
at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, have criticized
this standard because it doesn’t take into account the gestation period between when
HIV is acquired and when it shows up on a test.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the most recent
actress to test positive took her test on June 4, performed for a film on June 5, then received her positive test result on June 6. Consistent condom use, advocates have argued, is
necessary because of such lags. However, according
to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been working
with L.A. County seeking a supervisor, condoms are
only used 17 percent of the time in adult films.
The L.A. Board of Supervisors originally approved a
resolution to seek legislation last October, and made
it part of their official state legislative agenda
in December. Any statue would be a workplace safety
regulation policed by the California Division of Occupational
Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA).
In fact, Cal-OSHA already has a regulation on blood-borne pathogens in the workplace, according to Rand
Martin, a lobbyist for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation
with the firm of Rose & Kindel. That regulation, however, mainly governs the
medical industry. Certain “clarifications” would be needed in law to regulate HIV protection
in the adult industry.
“We’re calling for a worker protection objective here,
not a change of what is on the screen,” Martin said.
Last week Cal-OSHA raided the clinic where the positive HIV test
was recorded. The Adult Industry Medical Association
is the main provider testing adult performers. According
to the LA Times, the state is seeking information about
as many as 18 other adult performers who have come up HIV positive
since 2004. AIM also maintains a database of performers’ HIV status, and a quarantine list if anyone is known
to have worked with an infected performer.
Some in the industry have contested whether these people
were current performers-something which can be difficult to track. According
to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation literature, “there are approximately 1200-1500 Californians who are employed as performers, but the
roll call of performers is constantly shifting. Most
(especially female performers) will appear in very few movies before ending their
adult film career. As a result, the number of performers
who are engaged in any given year is much greater.”
This constant turnover in performers and in companies-which constantly change names and pop in and out of
existence, Martin said-can make the industry hard to track.
In 2004, there was a clear outbreak, involving several connected
cases. Since then, 22 other cases have been reported. About half are among
men who work in gay films, while the rest are both
men and women working in heterosexual porn.
The Los Angeles Department of Public Health has been
critical of industry testing and reporting. A spokeswoman
with the agency declined to comment on their investigation
except to point to a June 19 letter to the County Board of Supervisors. It stated
that AIM has reported 24 HIV cases since 2004: “AIM has claimed that none of these individuals are
adult film performers. To date, we have been unable
to verify this claim because of a lack of cooperation
by AIM.” AIM has not returned a call seeking comment as of
The Free Speech Coalition’s Hernandez said that anytime there is talk of an HIV
incident, it gives ammunition to groups who have already
been pushing for condoms in adult films. But this latest
report, he said, isn’t likely to change anything.
“Anytime something is in the newspapers, and it’s getting a lot of attention down there, it’s a chance for groups to go for what they already wanted,” Hernandez said. “If legislators weren’t convinced there was a need in January or February,
I’m not convinced that the information that is out right
now would be enough to change someone’s mind.”
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Martin said he did not take seriously the idea that
the adult industry would leave for another state, such
as Nevada, if condom regulations went into effect.
“They’re too well entrenched in California,” Martin said. “They have too accommodating a government, too accommodating
a society to move out of state. The San Fernando Valley
is the heart of adult film industry,” he added, noting they are “treated like normal businesses” there.
The advent of digital technology, Martin added, could
make the issue of condoms moot. It is possible to quickly
and easily take any visual indication of the condom
out of the film or image before sale, Martin said.
“The condom is digitally removed,” Martin said. “We’ve actually talked about taking a visual example to
the committee when we present the bill.”
Martin quickly added, “I’m joking.”