See No Evil

Times staff writer P.J. Huffstutter last wrote for the magazine about the rise of Vivid Video Inc., the nation's leading porn producer.

During production of the 1997 movie "Mimic," American Humane Assn. representatives wandered through the Los Angeles set, ensuring that a herd of cockroaches was well taken care of. Licensed animal handlers were to follow state and federal anti-cruelty laws designed to protect the insects, which had been trained to swirl around actress Mira Sorvino's feet. The roaches had to be fed at a certain time. They could only work a few hours each day. They could not be harmed.

At the same time, in studios in the San Fernando Valley, scores of other actors and actresses were working on movies. They put in long hours, commonly without meal breaks. They often worked without clean toilets, toilet paper, soap or water. More importantly, they were exposed to a host of infectious, and sometimes fatal, diseases.

These performers were making heterosexual adult films for an industry that in California is entirely legal, and utterly unregulated. Its producers take in several billion dollars annually from cable television programming, videos and Internet sites watched by a public whose appetite seems insatiable. They pay taxes, lobby in Sacramento and contribute to political campaigns.

Yet actors and actresses are discouraged from wearing prophylactics during filming because porn producers believe the public wants to see unprotected sex. So adult porn stars commonly engage in sexual acts with scores of partners, and then return each evening to their private lives--dating or having relationships with people across Southern California.

In the words of former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, when told about the lack of oversight of the adult film industry: "These folks are a reservoir. They don't just have sex with one another. They have sex with regular people outside their business--doctors, lawyers, teachers, your next-door neighbor."

But California regulators and political officials don't believe the public is worried about protecting the porn stars themselves--despite the enormous popularity of the films they produce. As David Gurley, staff attorney for the California Labor Commissioner's office, says: "Porn stars--people think they're not worth the time. The public sees these people as disposable."

Told of those remarks, and similar ones by other California officials, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said: "That's ridiculous. That's the same thing we heard about the gay community back in the early days of AIDS." Koop was an early crusader in the fight against the disease.

Koop and others note that in Nevada, legal brothels are subject to stringent state oversight--and the spread of sexually transmitted disease in that industry has been reduced to trace amounts. In California, the adult film business, which has expanded to include the most risque forms of sex widely referred to as Triple X, is remarkably similar in scope to Nevada's legalized prostitution in terms of the number of people employed and the nature of the job. Yet the only monitoring in Triple X is a form of modest self-regulation by some companies that request health tests before performers go on camera. But even that practice is neither widespread nor tightly monitored. "The fact that no one's watching this industry is shocking," Koop says. "How many people have to be infected with an STD before someone does something?"

Actress Anne Marie Ballowe is a former porn star who flourished in the burgeoning business. She was born in Taegu City, S. Korea, the daughter of a U.S. serviceman and a South Korean woman. The family moved to the United States, where her parents soon divorced. Her mother gave her to her father, who was living in a small Missouri town, when Ballowe was 7. She says she was raped by schoolmates at age 16. The following year she ran away to Los Angeles with dreams of a better life.

She found it. Sort of.

Ballowe became famous, paid thousands of dollars to grin for the camera, prance beneath the hot lights--and have sex with strangers. For years she enjoyed the perks of her job, shuttling around town in limousines, attending hot Hollywood parties, dating famous athletes and rock 'n' roll gods. During her seven years in the business, she starred in scores of Triple-X films.

Legal and medical records show she walked away from the business in 1998 with chlamydia, which could make her sterile; cytomegalovirus, which could eventually make her blind; hepatitis C, which has damaged her liver; and HIV, which could cause AIDS and probably kill her. According to medical records, her liver is too damaged--in part because of the hepatitis--to allow her to take the anti-viral drugs that could delay the onset of AIDS.

Along the way, she also became a drug addict, and she has exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia. Today the 29-year-old former actress lives in Honolulu. There, sitting inside an AIDS clinic for homeless patients, waiting for medication, she hides her past behind an engaging smile. "I know people hate what we do," she says. "But porn stars make a lot of money for other people. If farmworkers have rights, so should we. The laws need to change."

Hours later, staring at the TV screen inside a friend's apartment, Ballowe watches a clip from a 1998 video she made for Hard Core Television and K-Beech Video Inc. It is the film in which Ballowe has alleged she was infected with HIV by an actor named Marc S. Goldberg. She was paid $10,000 for her work, but records show the check bounced just days after she learned that she was HIV positive.

As the video plays, Ballowe quietly excuses herself and walks into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. Water runs into the sink, nearly muffling the sound of retching.

Ballowe's rise and fall in the business is not unusual, but her reaction is. She filed a lawsuit with the California Workers' Compensation Appeal Board against Hard Core Television, the producer of the video, and K-Beech, the distributor. Ballowe alleges that Goldberg faked a test showing he was HIV negative. Included in the lawsuit is a copy of an HIV test supposedly taken by Goldberg on March 21, 1997, nearly a year before the two actors worked together. The result is negative.

The document says the test was conducted by the Medical Science Institute in Burbank--a laboratory that filed for bankruptcy in 1995, and whose assets were purchased by Physicians Clinical Laboratory Inc. in February 1997. The document also shows that Goldberg's blood sample was taken at Northeast Valley Health Corp.'s Pacoima offices, by a physician identified only as "Martinez."

Officials from Northeast Valley told The Times that no doctor by that name worked at their facilities during this time. "We had a doctor named Martinez, but he left and moved out of the area back in 1985," says Kimberly Wyard, chief executive officer.

Goldberg could not be reached for comment despite nearly two dozen attempts to contact him by phone and in person at his home and at the video company where he works. No response from Goldberg to Ballowe's lawsuit is on file with the state. Hard Core Television and K-Beech have filed papers denying responsibility.

Ballowe's suit says that during several days of filming in Chatsworth in February 1998, the actress had sex with about 25 men--a mix of actors established in the business, would-be stars trying to get a break in the industry and adult-film fans who had been recruited at adult video stores. Most of the men showed up at the set with paperwork that declared they were HIV-negative. Some wore condoms. Others, like Goldberg, did not.

"I had known Marc for years, so I didn't make him wear one," Ballowe says in an interview. "I was going on good faith" that he was not infected. In her lawsuit, Ballowe says that K-Beech and Hard Core failed to provide a safe work environment, as required by state law. Specifically, she claims the businesses failed to "verify the health certificates provided . . . to ensure their accuracy and reliability." She also claims the companies failed "to furnish and use safety devices and safeguards for the benefit of the employee . . . with knowledge that serious injury to applicant would be a probable result."

"If I was a prostitute in Nevada, I'd still be alive," she says in an interview. "If I'd been a migrant farmworker, I'd still be alive. As it is, I'm dead. I'll be buried before I get wrinkles."

Ballowe's lawsuit has become the leading example cited by all those who argue for regulation of the industry. It was filed in 1998, at a time when, one by one, porn actresses were testing positive for HIV. Among industry veterans, those years are now known as "the dark times." In January of that year, actress Tricia Devereaux tested positive. She was followed by Ballowe in March; a Hungarian performer, who used only the stage name Caroline, in April; and Kimberly Jade in May.

"I could have given this to my boyfriend," Jade says. "Any of us could have and not known because we were getting tested only once a month, for HIV. The only thing we all have in common is Marc. But we had no idea how to prove that he did it."

Some companies, such as Vivid Video Inc. in Van Nuys and VCA Pictures in Chatsworth, insist performers bring a recent HIV test to the set and use condoms when they perform. But dozens of Triple-X filmmakers have no such requirements. Even at those that do, the rules can be easily overlooked, according to interviews with more than three dozen actresses working for various Triple-X companies.

"It's up to the talent to say [to other performers], 'Let me see your HIV test,' or 'Hey, I need a condom,' " says Robert Herrera, production chief of Simon Wolf Productions in Chatsworth. "It'd be great to have everyone wear a condom and a good thing to force everyone to test for everything. But it's impossible to do that in this business."

Gay pornographers abide by a different set of rules: No condom, no HIV test, no audience. Nearly all gay Triple-X production studios throughout the industry demand condom use and other protections. The decision is rooted in financial concerns. While there is a niche audience for films that depict unprotected sex, few retail and Internet outlets will carry such movies for fear of drawing public criticism.

"They all wear condoms," says Roger Tansey, former executive director of Aid For AIDS, a West Hollywood-based nonprofit that provides financial assistance for people with HIV. "Gay actors and gay viewers don't see unprotected sex as a fantasy. They see it as watching death on the screen."

Though the porn industry is huge when measured in dollars, it has relatively few employees. Talent agents say there are typically 500 Triple-X actors and actresses working at any given time in Southern California. But because the average career lasts just 18 months, the number of people who have worked on Triple-X sets over time is actually far higher, exceeding thousands per decade.

The extent of infection among those performers is unknown because no government or regulatory medical agency has ever tracked the industry consistently. The limited data that does exist is alarming. The Adult Industry Medical HealthCare Foundation (AIM), an industry-backed clinic in Sherman Oaks, administered voluntary tests to a group consisting primarily of adult film workers. Of 483 people tested between October 2001 and March 2002, about 40% had at least one disease. Nearly 17% tested positive for chlamydia, 13% for gonorrhea and 10% for hepatitis B and C, according to Sharon Mitchell, a former adult actress who founded AIM. None of the tests came up positive for HIV, Mitchell said. The testing was funded in part by the Los Angeles County Health Department.

By comparison, 23,277 cases of gonorrhea were reported statewide in 2001, less than one-tenth of 1% of the state's population, according to the Department of Health Service's division of communicable disease control. For chlamydia, 101,871 cases were reported for the year, or about three-tenths of 1%--a rate health officials consider epidemic. The chlamydia rates in the porn world are about 57 times higher than those epidemic proportions. But that and other statistics can also be explained by the small size of the population and its abnormally high rate of sexual activity.

The industry agreed to start AIM under pressure from Mitchell and others, after Ballowe and several other actresses contracted HIV. "We don't test everyone in the business," Mitchell said. "People come into this business, and they leave this business. We can follow many of them, but not all." For every positive test, the clinic contacted the performers' partners and tested them as well. On average, said Mitchell, one positive STD test for a porn star led to the discovery of four other infections.

The figures obtained by AIM are "clearly an indication of what's happening," says Dr. Peter Kerndt, the county health department's STD control director. "We support AIM's effort, but we can't help them very much financially. Our budgets are tight, and there's no public outcry over this.

"But even we wonder why we don't have the same legal requirements in California that they have with legalized prostitutes in Nevada."

It's a point that comes up repeatedly about health conditions in the porn industry: Why not regulate as Nevada does?

The answer is that on the evolutionary chain of vice--from gambling to sex--California now seems behind its neighbor state. It is Nevada that imposes strict controls on and derives healthy revenues from legalized gambling. It is Nevada that has devised a way to keep the legal sex business healthy.

The worlds of legalized prostitution in Nevada and adult films in California are strikingly similar. Nevada's legal brothels employ from 250 to 400 licensed prostitutes at any time and they typically stay in the business only a short time, says George Flint, executive director of the Nevada Brothel Owners Group. The women who work in the state's 26 legal brothels are required by state law to practice safe sex. Doctors and epidemiologists alike say the rules have all but eradicated the transmission of STDs within the workplace.

In 1999, for example, there were 28 cases of prostitutes who tested positive for either gonorrhea or chlamydia, according to officials with the Nevada Department of Human Resources Health Division. Government officials say that most of those who were infected contracted their diseases outside the brothels.

"What we've found is that the positives are nearly all from women who are being tested [for STDs] as they enter the system for the first time," says Dr. Randy Todd, Nevada's state epidemiologist. "On the rare case that they've contracted after being in the system, we've found that they've had unprotected sex with a boyfriend or husband, and that's where the [infection] occurred." There have been no cases of HIV since Nevada's brothels were ruled legal in the mid-1980s.

"If we had the numbers you're seeing in California, our phones wouldn't stop ringing," says Rick Sowadsky, health program specialist for the Nevada State Health Division. He says the infection rates in California's adult film business "are unreal. What a public health crisis."

In Nevada, the state health department's Bureau of Disease Control and Intervention Services began requiring customers in brothels to use condoms. A violation is a misdemeanor. To have HIV and not wear a condom is a felony.

The brothels also have a huge financial incentive to follow the law. "If the police catch one of the workers not using a condom, the house gets hit with a fine," says Dennis Hof, owner of several brothels, including the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nev. "The second time it happens, the house gets shut down permanently. That will not happen to us. That's why we hire people to go in and test the girls [on using condoms] ourselves."

Brothels keep health and test records for each prostitute. Once a week, the women are required to visit a doctor, or the doctors arrive at the brothels themselves. Blood and urine are drawn and sent off to one of a handful of state-regulated labs. Local authorities can--and do--stop by for periodic checks on the paperwork.

A main objective of the monitoring is to keep the operation thriving. "If we had the disease rate you see in the porn world, we'd be out of business tomorrow," says Flint. "All it would take is one customer saying he picked up an STD in one of our houses, and our industry would be gone."

To offset the state's regulatory costs, prostitutes pay a host of fees--ranging from the required medical tests, as well as state registration and licensing fees. Last year, those brought in about $175,000 in Nye County, where a dozen brothels operate. That's a relatively small amount in a county with a general budget of $50 million. But the impact is clearly felt: The county's emergency services received $60,000 from the licensing fees, which was used to pay for new ambulances.

Prostitutes regularly face pressure to avoid using condoms, says Dr. Alexa Albert, author of "Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women." Her research, detailed in the book and in reports for the American Journal of Public Health, showed that more than 65% of the women said at least one of their customers had balked at wearing a condom each month, offering as much as $1,000 to do without. None of the women Albert interviewed said she had agreed to unprotected sex.

"Each brothel has to have the disease status on file from their workers," says Albert, a gaduate of Harvard Medical School. "There's too much at risk legally."

In California's Triple-X world, there is no legal risk because no one is watching over the business. "If California is the only state where it's legal to be paid for having sex in front of a camera, it's going to be up to the state of California and the local agencies to do something about regulating it," says Frederick S. Lane III, an attorney and author of "Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age."

"But it would be political suicide for anyone in government to come forward and try to start regulating the porn industry," Lane says. "That's why nothing's been done." Though there are labor laws in place that could be enforced, new legislation would be needed to bring California in line with Nevada's regulations.

Actresses Britni Taylor and Savannah Rain lean against the back wall of a crowded North Hollywood soundstage. They listen, occasionally yawning, as cameraman Glenn Baren and his all-male crew from the production shop Extreme Associates try to figure out how to reconfigure the small set to accommodate various camera angles. Baren paces across the concrete floor, listening to suggestions from the crew. The actresses stare at the ceiling. No one asks their opinion. Finally, it's decided: The first scene will be shot from the foot of the bed.

There are no condoms on the set. There's no toilet paper in the bathroom. The performers brought boxes of baby wipes. Soiled sheets litter the ground, creating a trail to the bed. For more than two hours, Taylor and Rain engage in unprotected sexual acts with a male performer.

During a break, Rain asks director Thomas Zupko for her co-workers' HIV tests. Handed a stack of papers, she flips through the documents. One is missing--Taylor's. Rain asks repeatedly for her paperwork, but she balks. "I don't have [expletive] AIDS," Taylor finally says. "I am not [having sex with] you."

Stunned, Rain says nothing. Minutes pass, then Baren picks up the camera and filming continues.

Off to the side, an actress mutters: "That is why we take so many prescriptions."

What happens on these sets is invisible to elected officials in Sacramento, where each spring pornographers travel to meet with state legislators in a daylong lobbying blitz. Under the banner of the Free Speech Coalition, a 900-member San Fernando Valley-based trade group for the adult entertainment industry, moviemakers and former actresses knock on doors and stump over taxation issues. They have lobbied against regulation and pass out industry-funded research that touts their economic impact on California: an estimated $31 million in state sales tax from the rentals of 130 million adult videos and nearly $1.8 billion in Internet sales and Web site traffic nationwide.

Among the lobbyists at last year's meetings was porn actress Julie Meadows. She wandered the hallways with a list of politicians she would visit. Her task: talk about pending legislation, including debate over tax breaks and real estate laws that could either hurt or help adult filmmakers. Meadows begins knocking on doors, including those of Democratic Sen. Kevin Murray of Culver City, chairman of the Select Committee on the Entertainment Industry, and Democratic Sen. Richard Alarcon of Van Nuys, chairman of the Senate Labor Committee.

"They didn't ask a lot of questions," Meadows, who works for VCA Pictures, said afterward. "When they did, it was all about the business. There were no questions about the day-to-day activities of our job, or what happens on the set."

Months later, when asked about Meadows' visit to Murray's office, his spokeswoman, Yolanda Sandoval, told The Times that the senator "doesn't remember seeing them this year." Alarcon declined to comment.

Other lawmakers who chair health or labor committees in Sacramento also declined to comment on the lack of regulation of the Triple-X industry. Among those called by The Times were Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz of West Hollywood, who chairs the Labor and Employment Committee; Democratic Assemblyman Dario Frommer of Los Feliz, chair of the Health Committee, and Democratic Sen. Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento, who heads the Health and Human Services Committee.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the lobbying is how fast it has become unremarkable. Little more than a decade ago, appearances by Meadows, or anyone in the industry, would have been unthinkable because pornographers were battling a Justice Department crusade against transporting "obscene" materials across state lines.

Then, in California, the industry caught a break. Harold Freeman, who was president of Hollywood Video Production Co., contested pandering charges against him, basing his argument on a 1973 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Miller vs. Calfornia, the high court had defined obscenity as material that depicted sex in a "patently offensive way," lacking in literary, artistic, scientific and political merit, and appealing to an average person's "prurient interest," as determined by the local standards of each community.

In effect, the court said that if a locality deemed sexual content sufficiently artistic, it was not obscene.

To the California Supreme Court, ruling in Freeman's case, that definition meant that an adult filmmaker could hire actors and actresses to perform sexual acts as long as they were being recorded on film. In its 1988 decision, the California court said there is no evidence that Freeman paid the acting fees "for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, his own or the actors'." Instead, he hired them simply to make a non-obscene movie--an act protected by the First Amendment.

Just like that, making porn was legal in California. The industry exploded, thanks also to the VCR revolution, which made it possible for people to watch in private rather than at seedy adult theaters. What's more, anyone could buy a video camera and go into the filmmaking business. A cottage industry of "amateur" pornographers cropped up in the San Fernando Valley. They competed against several major adult studios: VCA Pictures Inc., Wicked Pictures, and Sin City Films, all in Chatsworth, and Vivid Video Inc. and Evil Angel Productions in Van Nuys.

Over the years, the companies grew larger--and politically smarter. They help fund the Free Speech Coalition, a Chatsworth-based national nonprofit organization that has dues-paying members ranging from Web site operators to porn actresses to adult cabaret chains. With an annual budget of $750,000, the coalition's lobbying effort has focused on protecting free speech and guarding the business interests of the Triple-X world.

"Our focus is not just about the rights of the adult industry, but the rights of you as an individual to have choices," says William Lyon, executive director of the coalition. The organization has opened offices in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. By next year, the group expects to expand into the South with five more offices.

Today's pornographers maintain that the adult film industry is no different from other lucrative businesses based on vice, such as tobacco and alcohol. Sex is merely a commodity to be sold and branded, like Microsoft software and Chrysler minivans. "We are a mainstream business, pure and simple," says Steven Hirsch, chief executive of Vivid Video Inc., a leading supplier of erotica to major entertainment companies such as AOL Time Warner Inc., AT&T; Corp. and DirecTV, the satellite TV service controlled by General Motors Corp. "We are nothing more than widget makers."

They are widget makers with one exception: Other industries are monitored for health and safety violations in the workplace.

In the heterosexual adult film business, producers may not demand the use of condoms, but they do require actors and actresses to sign documents meant to excuse the filmmakers of liability. A typical contract from Vivid says the company is not responsible, and will pay no medical costs, for "sexually transmitted diseases . . . . such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), herpes, hepatitis and other related diseases."

Ballowe and Goldberg signed similar waivers on the movie they shot together. "I represent that I am in good health, with no known sexually transmittable diseases. I understand that the benefits of the workmen's compensation laws do not apply," the waiver said.

Ballowe's lawsuit alleges that Goldberg lied when signing the document, and that the attempt to force her to waive worker's compensation rights was not lawful.

Legal experts called by The Times agree. Employees cannot be forced to sign away their legal rights to work in a safe environment--or to earn a minimum wage, overtime pay and enjoy the protection of workers' compensation insurance.

"You cannot have a provision that goes against public policy," says John Laviolette, an entertainment lawyer who represents numerous mainstream Hollywood producers. "If you're an employer and one of your employees experiences an injury while on the job, those injuries will be covered."

Producers, however, do not concede that performers are employees. Instead, producers claim performers are independent contractors who are not subject to workers' compensation laws.

Elliott Berkowitz, a Los Angeles workers' compensation attorney who is representing Ballowe, counters: "They're employees. The companies tell them when to show up, what to wear, where to go, what acts to do. If Hollywood studios consider their actors and actresses an employee during the length of their film shoots, there's no reason why adult studios should be held to a different standard. They're both making movies. And I guarantee you, studios like Disney have paid their taxes and workers' compensation policies."

The issue has yet to be decided by the compensation appeals board. But if it is, another obstacle awaits Ballowe. Hard Core Television, the producer of the video, did not have workers' compensation insurance for any employees. The distributor, K-Beech, had taken out a workers' compensation policy describing its employees as clerical workers. TIG Insurance Co., the Texas-based underwriter, insists the policy does not cover porn stars--and therefore won't cover Ballowe's medical bills.

Officials with Hard Core Television and K-Beech could not be reached and attorneys for TIG declined to comment.

Whose job is it to track the San Fernando Valley pornography industry?

There are two leading candidates. One is the L.A. County Health Department. It relies heavily on state and federal money, but the federal funds are to end in 2004-2005. "Of course there's concern," says Kerndt, the county's STD control director. "We know that if a disease enters this population, it could rapidly spread." Health department officials say they don't have enough staff or money to monitor the industry and point to a budget deficit that, by 2005, is on track to hit between $350 million and $400 million annually.

The other candidate for oversight is the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, whose monitoring effort includes oversight of Hollywood stunt work but not the porn industry. It is "too fragmented, too hard to track," says Dean Fryer, a Cal-OSHA spokesman. "We rely heavily on employees to give us tips about unsafe working conditions."

Deborah Sanchez, supervising attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney's special enforcement unit, is sympathetic to the plight of porn performers but sees little support from the public. "This reminds me of all the other types of businesses that have traditionally been oppressors--the garment industry, for example," Sanchez says. "The difference is, there are unions for garment workers" these days.

Mainstream Hollywood actors have a union that oversees wages, health insurance, retirement benefits and residual payments. Screen Actors Guild officials say they would never allow their members to work on an adult set.

Some adult-film actors know that they are entitled to employee protections such as workers' compensation and overtime, but they see no way performers could organize. "You would have to get every actor and actress in adult to sign up at the same minute," says an actress who goes by the stage name Wendy Divine and has worked on Vivid and K-Beech productions for several years. "Even if that happened, the studios could easily find replacements. They control everything."

Before Ballowe filed her lawsuit, she and Jade reached out to law enforcement and other government agencies, asking that they investigate working conditions in the industry. The first stop, in 1998, was Cal-OSHA. "They told us they didn't track our business," Ballowe says, and sent her to the state health department."

The California Department of Health Services, however, doesn't track their industry. "It's a local issue controlled by the local county health department," Ballowe says she was told.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, when contacted by The Times, said the case was a criminal matter, not a public health issue.

So they went to the Van Nuys office of the Los Angeles Police Department, where they met with Det. David Escoto, then with the department's Crimes Against Persons unit. "I told them there was no way we could prove who did what," recalls Escoto, now in the department's Foothill office. "I don't know how the industry works. And I don't think there's a way to prove they all got HIV from the same person.

No one would believe them anyway."

"That's utter rubbish," counters Dr. Michael Gottlieb, the former UCLA medical researcher who identified the earliest AIDS cases. "There is a way to track that information. It just takes money."

Gottlieb pointed to the case of Dr. David Acer, a Florida dentist who was found to have infected six of his patients with HIV. Federal epidemiologists used molecular sequencing studies of the viral strains of the patients to see if there were any similarities in the virus carried by the seven people.

The results showed that the patients' strain was similar to that of the dentist--and vastly different from other HIV strains collected elsewhere in the community.

But there was an important difference with the case of the dentist. "People cared what happened to those patients," Gottlieb says. "They were seen as innocent. No one sees porn stars as victims."

Correction. Almost no one. Somewhere in Los Angeles is one office worker who does care. In the words of an adult-film actress: "I picked up chlamydia on an Extreme set. I gave it to my boyfriend by accident. I had no idea that I had it. I didn't have any symptoms."

She learned that she was infected nearly a year later, long after she and the boyfriend had broken up. By then, he was in another relationship and had unknowingly infected his new girlfriend. "She had it, too," says the actress, who agreed to speak only if not identified. "The girlfriend worked at some insurance company. She's a secretary."

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Get more pornography health issues at The Times' Web site: www.latimes.com/pornography.

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