HIV-Positive Performer Shuts Down L.A. Porn Industry

Porn Industry Shut Down After HIV Scare
Share
Copy

A porn actor's positive HIV test, which prompted a temporary shutdown of Los Angeles' billion-dollar adult film industry Monday night, has reignited the debate over mandatory condom use in X-rated productions.

The HIV scare comes less than one month after the launch of a new online sexual health database aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among porn actors through mandatory testing. To be listed in the database -- a requisite for getting work -- porn actors must get tested every 30 days and present a clean bill of health. But critics say routine testing does not prevent STDs from creeping in.

"Testing is not a substitute for condom use, and it never will be," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. "No test can detect HIV from the moment of infection. There will always be a window period," which might not reflect recent infection.

The Free Speech Coalition, the industry trade group behind the database, announced the positive HIV test and requested the voluntary production moratorium Monday. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to ABCNews.com's request for comment.

The positive test results will be confirmed by more sensitive testing methods, but details of the case, including the performer's name, age and sex, will not be released. It is also unclear how many sexual partners might be at risk.

"The average American male has seven female sexual partners in a lifetime. But it's possible for a male to have seven sexual partners in a single day on porn movie set," said Weinstein. "Because this is a network that's kind of inbred, the spread of disease could be exponential."

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is pushing for mandatory condom use in the making of adult films -- a move that's met with strong resistance from the industry itself.

"If the market would accept condom-positive movies, that's what we would all be making. The fact is consumers don't want that," Christian Mann, general manger of Evil Angel Productions and unpaid Free Speech Coalition board member, told ABCNews.com when the database launched.

"The market will always trump regulation," said Mann. "If you make it so California-based productions cannot compete in the market, you'll just drive production out of the state."

But Weinstein insists that worker safety should not be optional.

"You can't dangle from a 30-story building from a rope; you have to wear a harness," he said. "The idea that hurting these performers is a matter of freedom of expression is simply wrong."

Porn Industry Database: Is Testing Enough?

The online database, launched Aug. 2, lists pornography performers who are free of sexually transmitted diseases and available for work. It replaced an earlier version operated by AIM Medical Associates that was shut down in May after the site was hacked and performers' private medical information was leaked online. It's unclear whether a lapse in STD testing between May and August contributed to the new case.

The adult entertainment industry has had its share of sexual health scares. In 1998, veteran porn actor Mark Wallice tested HIV-positive after reputedly hiding his positive status for two years and infecting several co-stars. In 2004, Darren James spread the virus to three women, shutting down film production industrywide for a month. And in 2009, a positive HIV test for a performer known only as "Patient Zero" sparked a legal battle between the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health and AIM Medical Associates over performers' rights to medical privacy.

ABCNews.com spoke to several performers who favor mandatory testing over mandatory condom use.

Bobbi Starr, a relative newcomer with five years in the industry, said she wouldn't work with someone with a troubling sexual health history -- or who didn't use a condom. And Nina Hartley, a veteran porn performer with 27 years in the industry and a degree in nursing, argued that condoms make on-set sex uncomfortable and possibly more dangerous.

"I would say it's different in a civilian population," said Hartley. "But public health is not served by forcing a small group of professionals to use condoms instead of being tested."

The new HIV case brings all these issues to the fore again.

"There really cannot be an argument over the fact that these performers would be far safer if they used condoms," said Weinstein. "We take no comfort whatsoever in this new case. We simply hope that this ongoing tide will prick the conscience of policymakers and make them more aggressive in taking action on the recklessness of the adult film industry."

Condom Measure Could Be on City Ballot

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is lobbying for a measure on L.A.'s June 2012 ballot that would mandate condom use in porn productions that seek city film permits.

"This is a tragedy, and we don't want to see one more person become infected with HIV or any other disease," Weinstein said.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...