The AIDS Healthcare Foundation said Thursday that it's filing complaints with the California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health over the non-use of condoms in the porn industry.
The foundation's complaint, which stems from a June 17 report about a Southern California porn actress who tested positive for HIV, targets 16 production companies that are based in the Los Angeles area, the epicenter of the U.S. adult video industry.
"As I continued to do hardcore porn, I started catching STDs all the time," said Michelle Avanti, a former porn actress and member of the Pink Cross Foundation, which offers support for adult industry workers. "My lower body hurt so badly and at times my private area felt like it was a blazing fire. I could no longer work because I caught so many STDs and infections. I believe that if condoms had been allowed to be used in my own films, I would not have suffered so many physical ailments and infections."
The Los Angeles Times has reported that as many as 22 porn film performers have tested positive for HIV in the last five years. The news reignited concerns that the adult entertainment industry is not protecting actors from the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The health department says there were 2,013 documented cases of Chlamydia among LA porn performers between 2003 and 2007 and 965 gonorrhea cases. From April 2004 to March 2008 some 2,847 STD infections were diagnosed among 1,884 performers in the hardcore industry in LA County.
"By recommending, but not requiring, condom use on porn film sets, Los Angeles County has basically abdicated its responsibility to perform its main function -- which is to protect the public health," said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, director of the foundation's Public Health Division.
The group says it has identified more than 60 videos recently filmed in the state in which the actors do not use condoms.
"As a global HIV and STD medical provider operating treatment clinics and prevention facilities here in California, we see it as our duty to pursue action on the issue of safety in the workplace—in these instances, unprotected sex acts taking place in albeit non-traditional workplaces—porn sets located throughout the San Fernando Valley that are churning out billions of dollars of adult fare every day," Michael Weinstein, president of AHF said in a statement. "This is why we are filing workplace health and safety complaints with Cal/OSHA today: to press for the enforcement of state and local workplace regulatory guidelines which would require the use of condoms in all adult films produced in California."
The porn industry has sought to portray the most recent HIV case as an isolated incident. All of the actors working in the industry are required to be tested for HIV every 30 days. The time between tests for other sexually transmitted diseases is longer. On average, there are about 1,000 people who actively work in the industry every six months.
Dean Fryer, California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesperson, said in June that he's not sure the adult film industry safety guidelines his organization helped define are being followed. In particular, he voiced concerns that condoms are not used.
"I'm concerned that a lot of producers are not using condoms or using film techniques so as to film a simulation rather than a sexual act," Fryer said. "That troubles me."
Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health officer for Los Angeles County, also said then that he is troubled by the lack of condom use.
"I don't know any other people that are unnecessarily exposed to life-threatening diseases as a condition of work. People need special equipment. Can you imagine fire fighters fighting fires without protective gear or police on the beat without some way of arming themselves?" asked Fielding.
While HIV is an issue, Fielding said the more pervasive problem was sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. He said AIM notifies the Department of Public Health of about 15 new infections a week.
"These are serious problems," said Fielding.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.