California: More Porn HIV Cases Disclosed

Newly released data show that despite pornography industry assurances that the recent diagnosis of HIV in a performer is the first since a 2004 outbreak, at least 16 other cases have been confirmed in adult-film stars. The disclosure brings to 22 the number of HIV cases reported in industry performers over the last five years, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The new data have state and county health officials scrutinizing the industry's long history of resisting condom use and regulation.

No state law specifically requires condom use, and the vast majority of pornographic movies feature unprotected sex. However, California labor laws do require use of personal protective equipment and protection against blood or bodily fluids in the workplace. Since 2004, five adult entertainment companies have been cited, with each case settled, state officials said.

Public health experts in 2007 and 2008 pushed for requiring condom use in adult films, but no lawmaker would take up the legislation, said Paula Tavrow of the University of California-Los Angeles School of Public Health. Officials and executives in the $12 billion industry maintain they do a good job of self-regulation and note that rates of HIV infection remain low among performers. If condom use were required by law, porn production would be driven underground or out of California, they argue.

The San Fernando Valley is one of the world's leading producers of pornography, home to about 200 production companies that employ about 5,000 staff and 1,200 performers. Health officials and AIDS advocates say this concentration means any STD has the potential to spread quickly.

Los Angeles County data show that since 2004, 2,378 people who identified themselves as adult-film performers have tested positive for chlamydia, 1,357 for gonorrhea, and 15 for syphilis.