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Porn Actors Told HIV Testing Is Not Enough

Porn Valley- County, state and national public health officers assured sex-film performers and producers at a meeting this week that they are trying to protect them from diseases, not put their industry out of business.

Half a dozen government physicians and health specialists met Tuesday night with actors and others worried about the recent HIV outbreak in the porn movie industry. “Our interest in this is solely as it relates to worker health and safety,” said Dr. Peter Kerndt of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, who was joined by representatives of Cal/OSHA and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta at the meeting inside a porn studio in the northwest San Fernando Valley. “We’re ready and willing to work with you guys. We can’t do it in isolation,” Kerndt said.

Sitting in a circle with porn performers, near such film props as a red, velvet loveseat, an unmade queen-size bed and a zebra throw rug, Kerndt and other health officials fielded questions and discussed how regular HIV testing – the current voluntary standard within the sex-film industry – is not enough to ensure good health.

“You all realize the shortcomings of screening,” Kerndt said. “It doesn’t prevent anything. If that’s all you rely on to protect yourself and others in the industry, it’s not a matter of if, but when [another outbreak will] happen again.”

Many in the group of about 30 agreed and urged the government to do more to protect sex-film workers.

“We need to reduce the risk as much as possible, and we need to do it quickly,” said producer Adam Glasser. “Condoms should be mandatory.”

Most sex-film producers eschew the use of condoms in their videos, fearing that it would drive away customers. Actors expressed outrage at previous comments from some producers who seem to be putting profits above people’s health.

Tales are widespread about producers refusing to hire actors who insist on using condoms.

“We should have some kind of legislation. It would help us band together,” said an actor, who asked that his name not be used. “Without any backing and any consequences for the companies, they will replace us, plain and simple.”

Actress Gen Padova has another theory on why so many in the industry refuse to require condoms: Directors and crew members get impatient because movies can take longer to shoot.

“The problem is, the guys don’t have the stamina when they wear a condom … most guys will deny that,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been on sets where they went through boxes of condoms.”

Eugene S. Murphy, a senior industrial hygienist for Cal/OSHA in Oakland, said his agency has the authority to intervene during filming if workers feel their workplace conditions jeopardize their health. He also said that a company that fired a performer for using condoms could be in violation of state occupational safety laws.

“What we need is a location and a complaint … that there is something unsafe going on,” he said. “If there is a violation, we issue a citation and there is a monetary penalty.”

Those in the industry told the health officers that there are medical problems in the sex-movie industry beyond HIV.

“This chlamydia and gonorrhea…. In the last few months, there’s been a lot of that,” said Rob Spallone, a producer who helped organize Tuesday night’s meeting.

Some expressed frustration about the low attendance at the meeting – held at the same time as a “Pornstar Karaoke” event across town.

The Southland is home to about 1,200 performers, several hundred of whom work on a regular basis.

The sex-film workers at the meeting said they are glad that the government is paying attention to the health issues that performers face.

“I’m an ex-cop and we used to bust chop shops,” said a 37-year-old actor, who asked not to be identified. The chop shop owners “are more afraid of Cal/OSHA than they are of the police.”

Before the three-hour meeting ended, Kerndt urged performers to attend a June 4 hearing in Van Nuys to voice their concerns to members of the state Assembly, which is studying whether safe-sex practices should be required on the job.

 

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