Condom requirement for porn film actors to be voted on in California
March 18, 2010 | 6:49 am
State regulators are expected to vote Thursday on a petition asking them to require porn industry performers to use condoms and to take other safety measures. The six-member California Division of Occupational Safety and Health standards board appears likely to create an advisory committee to report back on whether the law should be changed and how it could be accomplished.
The board, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has up to six months to act on a Dec. 17, 2009 petition filed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that seeks to change state law to require safe-sex protections for adult-film workers, including mandatory condom use and more stringent safety training and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Earlier this month, staff members recommended that the board create an advisory committee to consider amending the law “in order to give greater protection to employees in the adult film industry.”
“It’s to study the issue more. If it merits it, they would formulate the language and bring it before the board,” to amend the law, said CAL/OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterroza.
Monterroza said it is “extremely common” for the board to create such advisory committees.
Officials from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation said they support the creation of such a committee, which they hope would ultimately back new regulations for the adult film industry. The advocacy group has been pushing regulators and porn industry leaders to better safeguard the health of adult-film performers since an HIV outbreak among porn performers in the San Fernando Valley in 2004.
“Allowing the porn industry to flout the law on technicalities undermines the whole concept of worker safety in California,” said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, who is among those scheduled to address the board Thursday. “By making it more explicit it removes an excuse the industry has used that these regulations are not intended for their industry. At the end of the day, it’s about enforcement.”
Last summer, the foundation sued Los Angeles County after the disclosure that an adult-film performer had tested positive for HIV. In the suit, it alleged public health officials failed to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and to enforce laws requiring employers to protect workers against exposure to bodily fluids.
The suit was dismissed by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge late last year, but Weinstein said the foundation appealed the decision last week.
Among those scheduled to speak Thursday is former porn actor Darren James, who tested HIV-positive during a 2004 outbreak.
“I know there’s a lot of actors that’s getting tired of STDs,” James said Wednesday in an interview with The Times. He said many actors feel they cannot speak out against the spread of STDs for fear of losing work. “They just need more options; if they can provide them with better care maybe we can slow it down.”
Also scheduled to speak at the meeting are half a dozen representatives of the adult film industry, including Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a Canoga Park-based trade association.
Duke said her group’s members have tried to comply with state health and safety regulations, but that they are overly vague and general. She supports forming an advisory committee as long as it includes adult-film workers, producers or other industry representatives.
“We have been trying to work within the regulations, but it’s almost impossible,” Duke said. “If we were going with the letter of the law, every film would have performers in latex gloves and goggles.”
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske