Officials Want Mandatory Condom Policy

Rhett Pardon
HOLLYWOOD – California officials are set to lower the boom on adult content companies, deciding to begin health inspections on production sets after two actors contracted the AIDS virus.

Authorities from the state and Los Angeles County also said that existing workplace rules give them the authority to require condom use for adult productions.

"I look at this strictly as an employer-employee issue." Peter Kerndt, director of the sexually transmitted disease program for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

The largely unregulated industry primarily based in San Fernando Valley will now face inspections by the state Division of Occupational Health and Safety, known as Cal/OSHA.

Cal/OSHA, which is probing the adult content industry for the first time, has been asked to look at the production companies where Darren James and Laura Roxx, the two infected actors, worked.

Dozens of production companies shut down after the actors subsequently tested positive for the virus that can cause AIDS, and nearly 55 people have been quarantined because of potential exposure.

Cal/OSHA typically investigates workplace injuries, particularly construction and agricultural companies, where the majority of injuries and deaths occur.

But now the agency will look at a blood-borne pathogen standard, which would require precautions by porn stars who come in contact with semen, vaginal secretions, blood and other bodily fluids that may transmit diseases. It would also set up an illness-prevention program, requiring employers to have written policies on reducing workplace hazards.

Only a few adult content producers have switched to condom-only productions. Two of the largest adult companies, Wicked Pictures of Van Nuys, Calif., and Vivid Entertainment of Universal City, Calif., have required condoms for years.

Kerndt said he expects resistance to mandatory condom use and said some adult content providers may leave the state.

But Jack Kyser, who leads the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., told XBiz that scenario would be unlikely.

“With an industry like porn, which has nearly 200 companies in the area employing 6,000 actors and production jobs, there is a large film infrastructure here,” Kyser said. "It would hard to shoot the films elsewhere.

“But the one thing we worry about is that a condom-only policy could drive producers underground, where you put more people at risk,” he said.

The industry requires performers to undergo testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases every three rather than requiring condoms. But for James, who contracted HIV, records show that he had multiple partners in the weeks between check-ups. For example, James had film scenes with five women on March 8.

Efforts to regulate the industry has faced numerous obstacles through the years, particularly since most porn actors are not employees, just independent contractors. Cal/OSHA's regulations only govern conduct between an employee and his or her employer, not between an employer and an independent contractor.

Enforcement of existing state regulations would require a condom-only policy and mean an end to practices in some pornographic movies that involve contact with semen. It also would require porn producers to bear the costs of any testing, vaccinations and medical care associated with their employees in the workplace, county officials said.

County officials last year issued a report concluding that the porn industry posed a health risk to its workers and the general population. At the time, officials recommended that the Board of Supervisors ask state officials to develop regulations that would require adult-film actors to use condoms and be tested for a variety of communicable diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.

"We want to bring this industry into the mainstream by putting it under the regulations that currently exist,” Kerndt said. “ It would be a model for the rest of the country."