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Advisory panel would consider increasing regulation of California's porn industry

After hearing from industry workers, a board of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health votes to form an advisory group. Increased regulation would include mandating the use of condoms.

March 19, 2010|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

State regulators voted unanimously Thursday to create an advisory committee to consider increasing regulation of California's porn industry, including mandating the use of condoms and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Guy Prescott, director of safety for Operating Engineers Local Union #3 and one of six members of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s standards board, said he had planned to vote against the measure but changed his mind after hearing from performers and others in the porn industry.

Fellow board member Jonathan Frisch, principal risk manager at PG&E Corp., said that despite some people's distaste for the industry it was important to treat it as an employer. He said it was "extremely interesting to hear from members of the industry."

"It's going to be very, very important that we do have them at the table," Frisch said. Former porn actor Darren James, who tested HIV-positive during a 2004 outbreak in the San Fernando Valley's porn community, told the board that current testing in the industry is a false "security blanket."

"You think you're safe, but you're not. In between scenes, you don't know what other actors are doing," James told the board before turning to the crowd of about 40 at Costa Mesa City Hall. "I'm living your nightmare every day," he said.

But porn actress Angelina Armani told the board that during the last two years, she has appeared in many adult films, been tested regularly and never contracted a disease.

"My industry has protected my safety and continues to protect the safety of other performers," Armani said.

Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, director of communicable disease control and prevention for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, recommended Thursday that the board mandate condom use and require the adult film industry to pay for testing. Infection rates for chlamydia and gonorrhea, he told the board, are seven times higher in the porn industry than in the general population, and as many as a quarter of porn performers are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease in any given year.

The vote Thursday was in response to a petition filed in December by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an advocacy group that has been pushing for increased regulation in the porn industry since the 2004 outbreak. Michael Weinstein, president of the foundation, called the board's vote a "big step forward" and said he believed it signaled an openness to increased regulation by the state.

Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a Canoga Park-based porn trade association, said her group backed the board's vote as long as the committee includes adult-film workers, producers or other industry representatives.

After the vote, James said he wished more hard-core porn actors had come forward to tell their stories, and that the board -- which will take a least a month to form an advisory group -- had acted sooner.

"They need to do more," he said. "They should have done this years ago."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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