LOS ANGELES, June 12, 2009 — -- At least 16 more porn film performers have tested positive for HIV in the last five years, Los Angeles health officials told the L.A. Times, contradicting industry insiders who had said that the case of a Southern California porn actress who recently tested positive was an isolated incident.
The news has reignited concerns that the adult entertainment industry is not protecting talent from the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
While initial HIV tests of the woman's partners came up negative, the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that handles HIV and STD testing and treatment for people who work in the porn industry, said the actors are not working and are being encouraged to test again in two weeks.
The case appeared to be the first publicly confirmed HIV infection in the industry in Southern California since 2004, when an HIV outbreak shut down porn production industry-wide for a month. At that time, actor Darren James returned from a work trip to Brazil and infected three actresses. More than 50 actors were placed on voluntary work quarantine until they were cleared.
Now LA health officials are saying that at least 16 additional unpublicized HIV cases have been confirmed among adult firm performers over the period, bringing the total since 2004 to 22, according to the Los Angeles Times. It's unclear exactly when these cases were reported.
There has been no similar production shutdown announced since the latest news of the unidentified actress's positive HIV test became public. California law does not require the use of condoms among adult performers and they are not used in many porn videos shot in the state.
In a statement posted on the adult industry Web site AVN.com, AIM founder Sharon Mitchell said this scenario is different because the actress worked infrequently and had not worked with a large number of partners.
"There has been a person who has tested positive. There were exceptionally few partners, inside and outside the industry. All partners are currently testing negative and in adult employment quarantine. All required reporting has been complied with, as have the AIM and industry protocols. The investigation is ongoing. This is not a major event," Mitchell said, according to AVN.
Mark Kernes, senior editor of AVN, said the actress was an older woman who was only hired on rare occasions.
He called the case an "isolated event," saying she did not contract or spread HIV to or from anyone in the adult film world, a testament to the protocols the industry currently has in place.
All of the actors working in the industry are required to be tested for HIV every 30 days, according to Kernes. The time between tests for other sexually transmitted diseases is longer. He said on average, there are about 1,000 people who actively work in the industry every six months.
Mitchell said the woman and all the actors who have worked with her have been quarantined.
State Officials to Investigate Porn Industry
Dean Fryer, California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesperson, said he's not sure the adult film industry safety guidelines his organization helped define are being followed. In particular, he voiced concerns that condoms are not used.
"I'm concerned that a lot of producers are not using condoms or using film techniques so as to film a simulation rather than a sexual act," Fryer said. "That troubles me."
Fryer said Cal/Osha is currently identifying the infected woman and her employer in an attempt to understand whether production on the actress's films was performed in a safe manner. He said the Los Angeles public health department is also conducting an investigation.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health officer for Los Angeles County, was also troubled by the lack of condom use.
"I don't know any other people that are unnecessarily exposed to life-threatening diseases as a condition of work. People need special equipment. Can you imagine fire fighters fighting fires without protective gear or police on the beat without some way of arming themselves?" asked Fielding.
While HIV is an issue, Fielding said the more pervasive problem was sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. He said AIM notifies the Department of Public Health of about 15 new infections a week.
"These are serious problems," said Fielding.
The HIV case has not been officially reported to Cal/Osha or the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. Both plan on investigating the situation to prevent future incidents.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.