Porn Industry Still Struggles With Condom Issue

At annual conference, optional condom policies called into question.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 3:19 AM

Jan. 14, 2008 — -- 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.