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MANDATORY PROTECTION SOUGHT BOARD MOVES TO OBTAIN POWER TO SET ADULT-FILM CONDOM RULES.

Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to seek the authority to require the use of condoms by adult-film performers in the wake of an HIV outbreak in the multibillion-dollar industry.

The board's vote came after Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's public health officer, said local officials do not currently have the power to require the use of condoms on adult-movie sets.

``I think the industry has assumed perhaps that simply testing was going to be sufficient to prevent any infections of workers,'' Fielding said. ``This just shows that testing alone is not sufficient.''

The new push for government regulation of the San Fernando Valley-based adult film industry comes as dozens of production companies shut down after two adult film stars tested positive last week for the virus that causes AIDS.

``I think we need to look at what we can do to have some basic level of safety,'' Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said.

The two recent cases are the first in the industry since one was detected in 1999, following seven cases in 1998, said Sharon Mitchell, founder of The Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation in Sherman Oaks. The foundation tests about 1,200 workers a month.

Mitchell said that 30 to 50 percent of workers already use condoms but, if the government made it mandatory for the rest, it could backfire, creating a more dangerous public health problem.

``The reality of this population all using condoms is a wonderful dream,'' Mitchell said. ``These people are going to work, they get paid more money for not using condoms and they will go and shoot underground. If they are running and scattered, they won't come in to get tested.''

Fielding's office is expected to ask Cal-OSHA to investigate the outbreak and determine what the government can do to ensure the industry practices safe sex.

Under current regulations, state Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokeswoman Susan Gard said, employers in California must have injury and illness prevention programs that detail how employers keep their employees safe. Employers must also protect employees from blood-born pathogens, like HIV.

If the investigation finds violations of those regulations, Gard said, Cal-OSHA could issue fines up to $25,000 per serious violation.

Gard said the adult film industry is a ``very unique situation'' and the state cannot require film stars to wear condoms.

``Under existing laws, employers are required to provide personal protective equipment,'' Gard said. ``Condoms are one way they could provide protection, but not the only way. There is nothing in the law that says they must use a condom.''

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985

troy.anderson(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 21, 2004
Words:442
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