When members of the porn industry and state officials gather in Oakland on Monday for a meeting sponsored by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they will discuss how best to keep adult film performers safe from sexually communicable diseases. The answer, of course, has long been clear: It is to vigorously enforce, and if necessary strengthen, existing rules requiring condom use for adult performers.
The issue resurfaced for the umpteenth time this month when a porn actor tested HIV-positive, but that’s no guarantee that anything will change. In 2004, an HIV outbreak among pornography actors prompted a drive to make condom use the norm, but the San Fernando Valley-based porn industry has been recalcitrant.
That porn actors’ work leads them to contract sexually transmitted diseases is not in dispute. Since 2004, more than 4,000 people who identified themselves as adult film performers in Los Angeles County have tested positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. But this is not just a workplace safety issue; because porn actors do not live in a bubble but are wives, husbands and members of the Southern California community, those who become infected also pose a risk to public health.
Nor is labor law in dispute. Both federal and state labor laws specifically require the use of personal protective equipment or barriers against blood or bodily fluids in the workplace, such as the gloves and masks used by medical technicians. Or, as Cal/OSHA officials say, employers must have “enclosure control plans.” The office has inspected porn operations and cited several for violations, but the refusal to comply is firm. No state law specifically requires condom use; it may be time for that to change.