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SAFETY URGED ON THE SEX SET ASSEMBLYMAN PROPOSES VOLUNTARY PLAN.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Sacramento Bureau

Despite an AIDS outbreak that temporarily shut down the adult-film industry, filmmakers will not face new health regulations but should voluntarily improve their practices to protect performers from disease, a key Assemblyman said Tuesday.

Assemblyman Paul Koretz, a member of the Assembly Health Committee, has recommended a list of 13 practices the industry should implement, including the use of condoms and more frequent HIV testing. Earlier this year, Koretz killed a bill that would have required the industry to use condoms when filming all sex scenes.

``We won't be afraid to legislate if we have to,'' said Koretz, D-West Hollywood. ``But frankly I think we've come up with a reasonable plan and I think there's an excellent chance if the industry responds and implements it.''

Industry representatives said it is unlikely that all film companies will require performers to use condoms. However, they still plan to discuss ways to encourage Koretz's guidelines, in part because the threat of legislation is still there.

``The reality of people using condoms for a lot of the things that are suggested here - I don't know how quickly that's going to happen,'' said Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, the industry's main clinic.

Still, trying to mandate such practices would only make the problem worse, she argued, because the industry would go underground and then fewer performers would get tested.

Earlier this year, the San Fernando Valley-based industry faced an AIDS scare when a male actor was infected with HIV and spread it to three actresses, plus a fifth performer was infected independent of the others. The scare resulted in a temporary shutdown of filming and the threat of state legislation.

No other cases have developed since then, Mitchell said. After the outbreak, she said, the use of condoms rose to about 23 percent of performers, but has recently gone back down to its prior level of 17 percent.

But the industry has made two significant changes, she said - testing performers for HIV every two weeks rather than monthly, and mandating performers be vaccinated for tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Roseville, who had authored the earlier bill to require HIV testing, said if Koretz's voluntary plan doesn't work he should consider a mandatory approach.

``This may be the first time ever that a liberal Democrat has asked an industry - any industry - to voluntarily comply with safety standards,'' Leslie said in a written statement. ``I believe Mr. Koretz is sincere and, if the industry does not act appropriately, he will do the right thing and introduce worker safety legislation.''

Koretz's recommendations were developed by Dr. Thomas Coates, professor of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a member of the UCLA AIDS Institute.

Harrison Sheppard, (916)446-6723

harrison.sheppard(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 18, 2004
Words:478
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