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Los Angeles County declines to force condom use in porn films

Health department officials say such a requirement, sought by an AIDS activist group, must come from the California Legislature. And no lawmaker has stepped up.

February 03, 2010|By Rong-Gong Lin II

Los Angeles County officials Tuesday rebuffed demands from an AIDS activist group that the county immediately require performers in porn films to use condoms.

County officials said the California Legislature would need to approve legislation requiring condom use for pornography shoots. They said it would be difficult to try to regulate the porn industry through the county's Public Health Department.

"It is very, very difficult to implement. There are roughly 200 production companies with about . . . 1,200 actors," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's public health chief. "All you need is a room and a camera and a bed, basically, to do this kind of shoot, and we have no ability to police this."

Fielding said it would be difficult for public health officials to prove if the movies were produced in L.A. County or elsewhere because producers often do not apply for filming licenses. In a memo to supervisors on Sept. 17, health officials warned that such an effort would be costly because the Public Health Department would need to identify filming sites and monitor compliance, which would require significant staff time.

"We worked closely with county counsel trying to see if there's some other way that we could effectively do this under existing authority, and . . . basically, we're unlikely to have an effective approach to prevent them from acquiring preventable STDs," Fielding said Tuesday. "It's very disturbing to come to that conclusion, but we also have to be realistic."

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, where the multibillion-dollar porn industry is centered, agreed that adult film performers are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and said they deserve some kind of protection through the law. But he said the state's legislators would need to act.

"I think the only answer to this at the end of the day is a statewide approach to this, which would also empower law enforcement, and you run sting operations," he said. "All you've got to do is make one or two arrests and the rest of the . . . industry will understand pretty quickly that there's a risk."

Yaroslavsky said, however, that no California lawmaker has been willing to sponsor such legislation.

Fielding's department testified to California lawmakers in 2004 in support of a law that would regulate the adult film industry; require condom use during filming; implement STD screening requirements that would be paid by the industry; and have film companies pay for the local cost of monitoring compliance.

Brian Chase, assistant general counsel for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, accused the county during Tuesday's meeting of having "done nothing" to protect adult film performers.

In December, an L.A. County Superior Court judge dismissed the foundation's petition seeking a court order to compel county health officials to require condom use on porn sets or take other reasonable steps to stem the spread of disease. The court ruled that the county has broad discretion in how it oversees public health.

ron.lin@latimes.com

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