As the 41st Consumer Electronic Show's four days of tech gadget goodness came to a close Thursday, Las Vegas welcomed back another old friend — the annual Adult Entertainment Expo.
No matter what your ethics dictated, CES convention goers couldn't avoid eye contact with the scantily clad women of the adult entertainment world roaming the Sands Expo space. And an invitation to their booths would introduce even the least curiously initiated to displays of their films shown, in CES tradition, in high definition on the latest plasma TVs.
Hypothetically, one of these executives who took a wrong turn on their way home may be surprised to learn that during the making of these unrated films unlike football, hockey or baseball, the adult film industry requires no protection at all. The use of a condom is strictly voluntary and almost never done.
Although an HIV outbreak in 2004 in the porn industry caused the industry to impose a condom-only policy, few of the performers in today's films are using them. This has caused great concern to a coalition of California public health leaders including Peter Kerndt of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
"There's little regard and no protection for the people who work in this industry. This is the last at-risk population exposed unnecessarily to the risk of HIV and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases," Kerndt said.
There are currently no legal requirements for condom use or even for testing, but with the help of an industry veteran there are at least self-imposed standards that are being enforced by all the major adult film studios based in the San Fernando Valley area of California.
Sharon Mitchell appeared in more than 2,000 films before hanging up her G-string and starting the nonprofit Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) in 1998. That was the year a devastating HIV outbreak infected several female performers after a single male performer named Marc Wallice infected the women.
In the last 10 years 17 adult entertainers have tested positive for HIV, including six that AIM's testing caught before they could pass on the disease to anyone else in the industry.
Today all porn participants are required to have a full HIV/AIDS test every 30 days administered by Mitchell's AIM, which also keeps an electronic database of results.
"There's no 'I forgot my test.' It's on the computer and it's demanded," said performer Jesse Jane of Digital Playground.
"Before I do a scene with a guy or girl I have them tested the two days before and it take 48 hours to get the results, so I know they're clean. For me condoms hurt, so I can't get into a scene and I can't fake it. But I do promote safe sex especially if you are not going to get tested and you should get tested anyways at least once a month just to be safe."
The adult entertainment industry knows the self-regulation is important to keep the government out of its affairs and AIM offers one more not so subtle bit of advice to the studios on its Web page that "it is hereby beneficial to the liability of the companies to keep records of bills of health regarding each talent member and their partners for each day they are employed."