Mandating Condoms?


Reuters is reporting that the porn industry has temporarily halted filming because a performer has tested positive for the H.I.V. virus. As the wire service notes:

The temporary moratorium recommended by the Los Angeles-based Free Speech Coalition comes as public health advocates escalated calls for greater enforcement of laws requiring porn stars to wear condoms on the set.

The Free Speech Coalition said it learned on Saturday that a porn film performer who has not been publicly identified had initially tested positive for HIV. It called for an industrywide moratorium on Sunday.

Reuters adds:

California law and federal workplace safety rules require the use of condoms for porn stars exchanging bodily fluids through sex, but the industry has largely ignored those mandates, Chase said.

Porn companies have resisted efforts to compel condom usage by arguing it would force productions to go underground or outside the United States, increasing health risks.

The porn industry continues to operate in a legal gray zone, Chase said. "When you've got a situation like that, you've got a lot of industry participants who feel they don't need to follow the law," he said.

Until recently, many porn performers had been regularly tested for HIV at a private clinic in Los Angeles run by a private outfit called AIM Medical Associates. But the clinic closed in May as it filed for bankruptcy and dealt with lawsuits against it.

Since the closure, the Free Speech Coalition has developed a health and safety program to take its place, and it was in the process of signing up performers, producers and agents to participate, the trade group said.

Earlier this year, members of the Los Angeles city council called for new rules mandating the use of condoms in porn productions. Porn producers counter that enforcing a condom mandate would reduce their sales and encourage them to move their operations—which bring in about $13 billion annually—to other states or out of the country. 

How big a problem is H.I.V. among porn actors? Competitive Enterprise Institute policy analyst Michelle Minton crunches some numbers over at the OpenMarket blog: 

The rate of HIV infection among the general population from my unscientific analysis, is roughly comparable, if not greater — than it is among the licensed adult film actors working in California. According to CDC data from 2009 (the most recent available) there were 48,100 new cases. If there are 305 million people living in the US, that means that about 0.0016 percent of the popoulation contracted HIV in 2009. While the numbers for adult film actors are tougher to nail down, we can use the data provided by the Adult Industry Medical Center (AIM), which serviced most of the licensed adult actors in the L.A. area and was required by law to report any positive cases of HIV to the to L.A. County Health Department within seven days.

According to AIM's reports, there have been only a handful of HIV infections in the adult entertainment community in the last decade. In the first five years AIM operated, there wasn't a single case of HIV infection among LA area porn actors until 2004 when porn actor Darren James contracted HIV and spread it to four other actors. It was six years until another incidence of HIV in the porn industry would become public – one actor tested positive.

Add that to this latest case and there have only been around seven cases of porn actors contracting HIV in more than a decade; an average of less than one person a year. This means that the rate of HIV infection among the LA porn population is somewhere around 0.0007% of the population versus the general population's 0.0016%.

These actors are adults. If they decide to work without donning a French letter, then that should be their choice. But what if porn producers refuse to hire actors who insist on wearing English raincoats? That should be their choice too.