LOS ANGELES—Those who showed up at the Cal/OSHA Advisory Meeting on Bloodborne Pathogens in the Adult Film Industry today expecting a discussion of whether condoms should be mandated in adult movies were in for a surprise: According to both Cal/OSHA inspector Deborah Gold and agency attorney Amy Martin, condoms are already required for sex scenes, and any production that doesn't use them is breaking the law.
"I'd just like to make something very clear," Gold said at one point. "Right now, the standard mandates the use of condoms, so people who have come here and think that we're arguing about whether we're going to mandate the use of condoms need to understand that the current status quo is that if there's blood or other potentially infectious material, you need to prevent contact with that and the employee's eyes, skin, so people just need to understand that—I know people keep talking about it as though we're thinking about newly mandating condoms and people have to understand that what we're trying to do is talk about whether something new can be worked out in the standards that would protect employees as well as what's currently the present."
However, that comment, which came after more than an hour of discussion, hardly served to limit the subjects that attendees wanted to talk about.
More than 100 people crowded in meeting room 1-040A at the Cal/Trans Building in downtown L.A. beginning at 10 a.m. for a wide-ranging discussion about health issues in the adult performer community. Attendees with adult industry ties included performers Nina Hartley, Joanna Angel, Jeremy Steele, Eric John, Christian XXX, Anita Cannibal, Angela Aspen, Ben English and Dave Cummings; Free Speech Coalition executive director Diane Duke with FSC attorneys Kevin Bland and Karen Tynan; FSC board chair Jeffrey Douglas and Membership Director Joanne Cachapero; Wicked Pictures Vice-President (and FSC treasurer) Joy King; attorney Michael Fattorosi; Immoral Productions president Dan Leal; Protecting Adult Welfare founder Bill Margold and Dr. Eric Aronow of Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM).
Also attending were AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein and staffers Whitney Engeran, Brian Chase and several others; Dr. Paula Tavrow and others from UCLA's Reproductive Health Interest Group; Drs. Peter Kerndt and Robert Kim-Farley of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; and Shelley Lubben and several associates of her Pink Cross Foundation.
After an introduction by Gold, who gave a short history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the federal and state levels, noting that California's first "bloodborne pathogen" (BBP) regulations were first enacted in 1990. She also said that the purpose of today's meeting was to discuss the possibility of changing the state's BBP regulations, which she noted would also have to be justified at the federal level, but she was careful to point out that Cal/OSHA is not at the "formal rule-making stage" yet.
Gold then introduced Dr. Kim-Farley, who gave a Powerpoint presentation about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the adult industry, stating that "STDs are common among AFI [adult film industry] performers." He listed the various types of STDs and how they are transmitted, noting that one method of transmission which has a "moderate" probability of passing along STDs is "skin-to-skin contact." He also attempted to debunk some "myths" regarding STDs in the industry, including, "Screening does not prevent infection," that "Testing makes people safer" and that "Sharing performer test results ensures a clean bill of health."
Dr. Kim-Farley also claimed that according to the Health Department, there were 3,200 chlamydia and gonorrhea infections among the performer community between 2004 and 2008, and that 25 percent of talent get infected with an STD each year—figures that Dr. Eric Aronow of AIM disputed, suggesting that most were a result of duplicate reporting, and indeed, Dr. Kerndt admitted that for STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, tests conducted even three weeks after the person was cured could show residual infection, but he claimed that the Health Department was aware of that situation and discounted such reports from its statistics.
Dr. Kim-Farley also reported that there had been eight HIV cases among performers since 2004, though when Dr. Kerndt was asked to elaborate on that figure, he agreed that only four cases—that of Darren James and the three actresses he infected—could be traced to actual performers. Nonetheless, Weinstein repeated the claim that 22 performers had been infected since 2004—a figure that has been debunked even by the Health Department.
At one point, Dr. Kerndt was asked to compare the number of HIV cases in the performer community with the number reported in the general population, which he stated were about 100 to 125 new infections per month in Los Angeles. Also, in response to an objection raised by Nina Hartley, that prolonged use of condoms in sex scenes caused vaginal abrasions, Dr. Kerndt stated that he had never seen any studies documenting that happening.
Dr. Aronow gave a brief overview of AIM's testing procedures, and hoped that one outcome of the meeting would be to come up with a set of testing protocols that would be acceptable to Cal/OSHA.
After a lunch break, the bulk of the afternoon discussion dealt with condoms: How extensive is their use in the industry, and various reactions to condom use by both industry members and health care professionals.
The discussion continued for nearly four hours, so check back to this site tomorrow for a more extensive look at the proceedings—including the part where someone who claimed to have been an actress accused AIM of covering up for a director who, she said—but refused to name—was a rapist.
(Pictured L-R: Shelley Lubben, Michael Weinstein, Diane Duke, Nina Hartley)