Sexual Health Database Protects Porn Actors' Privates and Their Privacy

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The Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, has launched an online database that lists pornography performers who are sexually-transmitted disease-free and available for work.

The database, called Adult Production Health & Safety Services, is accessible only by producers, performers and their agents. It replaces a database operated by AIM Medical Associates, which was shut down in May after the site was hacked and performers' private medical information was leaked online.

"APHSS.org does not contain any medical records and very minimal information to identify users," said Joanne Cachapero, membership director for the Free Speech Coalition. "In the unlikely event that the database was hacked or breached, there is not much personally identifying information contained in the database."

Proponents say the new database will safeguard performers' sexual health as well as their privacy. But critics say it promotes unsafe sex.

"I think the message is going out to people, particularly young people, that the only kind of sex that's hot is unsafe," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. Weinstein's organization has lobbied for mandatory condom use in adult films despite pushback from performers who favor mandatory routine testing.

"You wouldn't let a construction worker dangle 30 stories without a harness just because he says he's willing," said Weinstein. "The law requires a harness; it's as simple as that."

The adult entertainment industry has had its share of sexual health scares. In 1998, veteran porn actor Mark Wallice tested HIV-positive after allegedly 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 industry-wide 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 (Cal/OSHA) and AIM Medical Associates over performers' rights to medical privacy.

But performers say the database, requiring a negative STD test every 30 days for a listing, gives them the information they need to protect themselves.

"I feel like I'm at less risk at work than if I were to go out and have even safe sex with someone I just met," said Bobbi Starr, a performer and director with five years in the industry. Starr said she won't work with someone with a troubling sexual health history -- with or without a condom.

"I personally think it's more important that the testing is mandatory and that we keep it mandatory," said Starr. "There's a lot of talk about taking away testing and making condoms mandatory, which to me seems like a step backward. Why not have the option of both?"

But some production companies won't hire performers that insist on condoms because consumers won't buy the product.

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

Mann worries that mandating condom use would drive the industry underground and make it less safe.

"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."

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