Calif. Lawmaker Proposes Bill To Require STD Tests for Porn Actors, Prohibit Hiring of HIV-Positive Actors
A California Assembly member has introduced a bill (AB 2798) that would require pornographic film actors to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases within two weeks before production of a film and prohibit producers from hiring actors who test positive for HIV or other STDs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill, proposed by Assembly member Tim Leslie (R), also would allow any performer who is infected with an STD as a result of participation in an adult film to sue for damages if a production company failed to comply with the terms of the legislation. The bill would bar from work an estimated 30% to 50% of gay adult film actors who are HIV-positive, despite an industry standard of requiring condom use, according to the Times. (Liu/Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 5/2). The proposal comes after Los Angeles County Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding on April 20 launched an investigation into the spread of HIV in the pornography industry. Adult film actor Darren James last month tested positive for HIV, and 53 workers who may have had unprotected sex with James or his sex partners agreed to a voluntary work quarantine. Since then, two female actors who worked with James also have tested HIV-positive. About 12 companies agreed to a 60-day production moratorium until HIV testing of the actors is completed, industry experts said. About 1,200 adult film actors undergo monthly testing for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, and many production companies require performers to show their test results before filming (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/30). Current adult film industry regulation relies on an "expensive but advanced" test that "detects HIV quickly after infection," according to the Times. The proposed bill would "permit cheaper tests that take longer to detect infections," the Times reports.
Fielding said that testing for HIV "can provide a false sense of security," according to the Times. He added, "Only safe sex -- using condoms during all filmed performances -- would ensure that diseases were not transmitted from one actor to another." Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which conducts HIV and STD testing for actors, said that the bill is "taking a step back, medically. It's just not well thought out." Kat Sunlove, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, said that the legislation "might encourage frivolous lawsuits," the Times reports. Adult film actor Don Hollywood said, "As much as I'm not in favor of government control over people's lives, ... I don't know if the industry is responsible enough on its own." Leslie said that the bill is a "first step" and he is "willing to consider modifications," the Times reports. The Assembly Health Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 5/2).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday reported on the work of AIM. The segment includes comments from Mitchell, AIM Board Chair Ira Levine, AIDS Project Los Angeles Director of Programs Lee Klonsinski and adult film director Rob Spallone (Cohen, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/30). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.