April 21, 2004 12:00am
California Urged to Probe Porn HIV Cases
by: Robert Jablon
(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Health officials have asked the state to investigate two cases of HIV infection in the pornographic film industry and to consider applying workplace safety laws to adult movie sets.
The discovery last week that two performers, one male and one female, are HIV-positive also could prompt the industry or government to consider mandating the use of condoms during filming, said Peter Kerndt, director of the sexually transmitted disease program for the Los Angeles County health department, on Tuesday.
That would be an overreaction, said Kat Sunlove, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry.
"Do we really want condom police?" she asked. "We've had two, count them two, positives in five years."
About 200 producers take in billions of dollars making thousands of adult movies each year. Many involve unprotected sex, and more than 60 performers who had contact with the two infected actors have been barred by the industry from working until their next blood tests are complete. Some companies have halted production for now.
The county health department wants the state's Division of Occupational Health and Safety to investigate workplace conditions at production companies that employed the male performer first found to be HIV-positive.
California's worker safety laws don't specifically cover the adult movie industry, but Cal-OSHA may have jurisdiction to enforce two general regulations. Employers must have a written plan for injury and illness prevention, and they must provide protection for workers who could be exposed to disease-infected blood or other fluids.
The second regulation has been applied to nurses, janitors and housekeepers, among others, Cal-OSHA spokeswoman Susan Gard said.
"We haven't done any inspections in the adult entertainment industry," said Gard, who wouldn't rule out the possibility that state investigators could go onto film sets.
Health officials agree the industry has a good record of self-regulation. Its last HIV scare was in 1999 and involved a single case. The industry standard requires porn performers to have HIV tests every three weeks.
"It may be good; it's not perfect," Kerndt responded. "I would regard any infection where exposure occurred without a condom to be a failure."
AP Business Writer Gary Gentile contributed to this report.