During an unusual bureaucratic meeting yesterday, members of California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration sat down with representatives of California’s porn industry to talk about safe sex.
Last year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a petition asking Cal/OSHA to tighten health regulations on the porn industry. And the issue was brought to the fore this month when an adult-film performer tested positive for HIV, which brought several porn production studios to a halt while the industry scrambled to determine the source of the infection and to test the performer’s partners.
At yesterday’s meeting, Cal/OSHA officials went over the existing rules, which were originally written to protect health care workers and were only later applied to porn performers. The rules require employers to protect their employees against blood-borne pathogens via “barrier protection,” which in the hospital world probably means rubber gloves, face masks, and the like. In the porn industry, the obvious protective measure would be requiring male performers to wear condoms, but in straight films that hasn’t come to pass (in gay films, condoms are standard).
Brian Chase, assistant general counsel of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, delivered a scathing assessment of the industry, saying it “doesn’t seem to think the rules apply to it. “They want to pretend that ‘barrier’ means something other than barrier,” said Chase, who called for a clear and simple rule and “aggressive enforcement” because of the industry’s poor compliance record so far. [Los Angeles Times]
The porn industry has insisted that its system of frequent testing for all performers is adequate. Its representatives also argue that amending regulations to apply specifically to adult film workers may have unintended consequences.
Frank Cambria, a lawyer who represents adult film businesses, warned that a more explicit — and widely enforced — condom regulation would merely send production to Mexico or underground, where workers would then have no protections at all. [Los Angeles Times]
But such arguments don’t convince some who argue that the health of individual performers is simply not being prioritized under the current system. As the Los Angeles Times wrote in an editorial:
Makers of pornographic films and many of the actors who flout the law … confuse early detection with prevention. The analogy would be if construction workers were routinely checked for concussions rather than required to wear hardhats. [Los Angeles Times editorial]
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