Unintended Consequences

I do not really want to write about male p0rn stars, but this story from the Associated Press provides such an excellent example of the law of unintended consequences that I couldn’t pass it up.

Two adult film actors have contracted HIV, with one most likely infecting the other during unprotected sex at a film shoot in Nevada where testing was less stringent than industry standards, officials said.

One of the actors had previously tested negative for the virus that causes AIDS before a pair of film shoots, but then began showing symptoms during the second shoot and was later found to be HIV-positive, the California Department of Public Health said Monday in a statement.

“In this case, the actor and production company thought he was HIV-negative during filming,” the statement said. “Shortly after his negative test, HIV levels in his body rose rapidly to where he could infect other actors through unprotected sex.”

The infections came amid a major decline in porn filming in Los Angeles County – once the center of porn production in the country – after the 2012 passage of a law requiring porn actors to use condoms during filming. The number of porn filmmakers applying for shooting permits in the county declined from 485 in 2012 to 40 in 2013.

The Free Speech Coalition, a California-based trade group for the adult film industry, said the pair of film shoots linked to the latest infections occurred in September on a Nevada set using tests that do not detect HIV as early as tests done on sets that fully comply with industry standards.

“Not only did this leave those who participated at risk, it made it much harder to track scene partners once the possible infection was discovered,” the coalition group said in a statement.

As you might imagine, the adult film industry provides many opportunities for the transmission not just of HIV but any sexually transmitted disease among its performers. An obvious precaution, along with the regular testing mentioned, might be for the male actors to wear condoms during their performance. For some reason, the adult film makers have tended to resist this step, perhaps out of concern that it would not be appreciated by their consumers. Since the industry will not adopt the standard voluntarily,a referendum in Los Angeles County required the wearing of the protective device while shooting. Problem solved.

Not really. As the story indicates, the adult film producers did not simply change their production practices to comply with the new regulation. Since that particular industry does not rely on a fixed location or immovable machinery, they simply decided to conduct their business outside of Los Angeles County, with perhaps lower safety standards then had been the norm.

It is all too easy to try to solve problems by passing new laws. Legislators are particularly vulnerable to this temptation since passing laws is what they do for a living. The problem is that passing a law or regulation does not magically solve the problem. Sometimes it may make the problem worse. I have written before how legislation can be ineffective or worse, even if well intentioned, if it is passed without a careful consideration of the conceivable consequences. Unfortunately, since legislators are usually judged by how many pleasant sounding laws they support and rarely by the actual consequences of these laws, we will likely see many more examples of unintended consequences.

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