Actor's Positive HIV Test Disrupts Filming as Clinic Traces On-Screen Sex Partners

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Disease Risk High in Porn Industry

At a March 18 Cal-OSHA advisory meeting, Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, chief of the division of communicable disease control for Los Angeles County's public health department, laid out the risks actors take when they engage in "high-risk sexual practices such as unprotected, prolonged and repeated sexual acts with multiple sexual partners over short time periods."

He said disease monitoring has revealed that rates of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are more than seven times higher in the adult film industry than in the general population. Up to 25 percent of performers are diagnosed with an STD in the course of one year.

He also has said there have been eight cases of HIV among confirmed adult industry performers working in the business at the time of the diagnosis since 2004, with four of them contracting the virus during production.

The first companies to stop production were Vivid Entertainment Group of Los Angeles, dubbed the Warner Bros. of the porn video business, and Wicked Pictures of Canoga Park, Calif., which has required condoms in all its pictures since 1999.

Hirsch, the company founder, said Vivid Tuesday shut down all production "indefinitely, until all the facts come out. We are fortunate enough to have probably five months' worth of movies already shot."

While Wicked Pictures "only shoots with condoms, we still don't want to put any actor or actress in a position to work with someone that may prove to be on the quarantine list," company president Steve Orenstein said.

A day later, Larry Flynt's Hustler Video announced it would complete a shoot that should finish by week's end, but would suspend other production, said Julie Messing, director of public relations for Flynt Management Group in Beverly Hills.

Samantha Lewis, CEO of Digital Playground in Van Nuys, said she made the decision to shut down production on two films "the minute we heard the news."

Lewis, who described herself as a mother first, said she would "shut my doors tomorrow to protect someone's life" and that the hiatus would give her "the chance to talk to every single one of my performers ... and make sure none of our girls or our male performers worked with this person."

AVN.com also reported at mid-week that Jennaration X Studios, Girlfriends Films and Kick Ass Pictures were halting productions.

But other companies chose not to idle actors and crews. Evil Angel Productions, which distributes porn films by a stable of directors and compares itself to United Artists studio, notified its directors about patient zero and advised them to be "hypervigilant" in verifying HIV results for actors they cast, General Manager Christian Mann said.

Mann said Evil Angel's owner, John Stagliano, and his wife, Karen Stagliano, both HIV-positive former actors, believe "condoms should not be required."

He was infected during a private sexual encounter in Brazil; she was infected in 1998 during on-screen sex with fellow porn actor Marc Wallice.

New Soldiers in the Fight

The National Coalition of STD Directors, whose members represent states, large cities, counties and territories working to control and prevent sexually transmitted infections, voted last week in favor of a four-pronged, national approach to what it termed the epidemic of STDs in the adult film industry.

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