Condom talk picks up after porn industry HIV breakout

The purpose of the County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Industry Act is to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted infections by regulating the adult film industry. (Photo Illustration by Emily K. Rabasto)

The adult film industry ended a two-week moratorium Sept. 20 following an HIV outbreak that infected at least four performers. The outbreak has increased support for legislation requiring the use of condoms during shoots.

Los Angeles County residents voted to implement Measure B, which mandates use of condoms during shoots. Two assembly bills have since been drafted in hopes of making actor protection on the sets farther reaching.

According to Adult Video News, Assembly Bill 332, ruled a violation of the first amendment, died before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Assembly Bill 640 is now on suspension until January 2014.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which introduced and supported Measure B, has publically put its support behind Assembly Bill 640, which, in part, requires employers to follow “proscribed practices and procedures to protect employees from exposure” to sexually transmitted diseases through the use of condoms and other protective barriers.

Though state laws already mandate the use of condoms, the industry has generally ignored them without any legal implications, according to Ged Kenslea, senior director of communications for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Kenslea believes the bill would create a safer industry by taking a more proactive approach.

“The current law is more of a reactive process,” said Kenslea. “It would allow for regular inspections, (and) spot inspections.”

Many performers and producers believe this regulation would be detrimental to the industry’s survival, and that it is unreasonable and unconstitutional.

Peter Acworth, founder of Kink.com, which recruits much of its talent from Sacramento, believes the legislation seeks to regulate a problem that does not exist.

“There hasn’t been an on-set transmission of HIV since 2004, so it seems to me the (current) testing approach works,” Acworth told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Others see this as an opportunity to influence consumers to adopt safer habits in their personal lives.

“There is a very powerful social-physiological phenomenon of conformity,” says Emelie Mitchell, human sexuality professor at ARC. “The media portrays to us what the norm is.”

Mitchell referenced a 2004 study which concluded that the standardization of condom use in gay adult films not only influenced viewers to practice safer sex, but also did not hurt the industry financially.

“We’ve gone through lots of things that we consider ‘normal’ for sexual behavior. When the standards change so do our ideas about what is acceptable,” says Mitchell. “Requiring heterosexual porn to have the actors use protection and condoms would, over time, simply become the standard.”

Shanon Astley, an ARC graduate who is now working with Oak Park Outreach, an organization that provides health education in underserved communities believes condom use is the only way to effectively protect performers.

“Many industries have regulations,” says Astley.  This is no different.”

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