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L.A. Libido

Reality Check: Porn, Condoms and the HIV Un-Outbreak

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Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 12:46 AM
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News broke last week that an adult performer - a male who works on both the straight and gay sides - tested positive for HIV. AIM Healthcare, the adult industry's primary testing, treatment and health care facility, confirmed the positive results, but HIPAA privacy law prevented officials from releasing anything more.
click to enlarge AIM Public Statement, Oct. 13, 2010
  • AIM Public Statement, Oct. 13, 2010

I've been a reputable and respected fly on the adult industry's wall since 2006, and until recently worked as a reporter and editor at a trade media organization covering the business of pleasure. I'm no stranger to the opinions and generalizations made by the mainstream media - as well as random folks at dinner parties and bars - regarding porn stars, annual revenue, STIs and obscenity. There's always been a common thread: hearsay disguised as fact.

From lack of evidence and fact brews rumor and misinformation, and once word got out that there was a positive test in the biz, bloggers, porn stars and gossip-mongers alike took to the Internet to play Guess Who? and sensationalize a significant but controlled issue.


AIM and the HIV "Outbreak"


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The facts:



  • The infected performer is male and performs in both gay and straight scenes.
  • A group of first- and second-generation performers who may have been infected were quarantined by AIM immediately following the announcement and re-tested.
  • Many top adult studios - including Hustler Video, Bang Bros, Digital Playground, Kick Ass Pictures, Wicked (despite being condom-only), Girlfriends Films - have temporarily halted production while they wait for further information.

AIM is notorious for not communicating to the media - both in and out of the adult industry - and holds an assumption common within the biz that keeping mum will protect the industry. What the organization's silence does, however, is fuel speculation that it's hiding something.

As expected, my calls to AIM's media rep, Brooke Miller, were unreturned. The receptionist was quick to defend the industry the minute I inquired if Miller was available, anticipating some kind of attack.

"I'll probably get in trouble for this, but look up how many cases of positive HIV tests there are every day and then compare it to the number within the adult industry," she said.

"Yeah; 16,000-or-so each day as opposed to two in two years," I told her. "That's not why I'm calling."

What I wanted - and still need - is to understand and share AIM's basic policy with regard to positive test results. No one I talked to, including Steve Javors, the reporter who broke the story for adult trade organization AVN, could tell me what exactly happens following a confirmed HIV-positive test.

"Once there is a confirmed positive, AIM quickly moves to identify first and second generation exposures," Javors told AfterDarkLA. "How they do that specifically, I don't know."

AIM's Miller told Javors that it was in the process of identifying all performers who could possibly be infected in order to contact and quarantine them. It's easy to assume AIM violates HIPAA regulation while communicating with Cal-OSHA and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. A simple "Here's how we do it," could quell the rumors.

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The Condom-only Choice

There is no union or federal regulation of pornography production, and the decision to mandate condoms is left to the studio and performer. Wicked Pictures is the only straight studio that shoots condom-only, while several gay studios (Jet Set Men, Suite703.com, RandyBlue.com) require condoms and STI tests for every shoot.

Adult industry uber-MILF, and AfterDarkLA.com contributor, Lisa Ann will only perform with a condom from now on. She's fortunate to be in a place in her career to make that call.

Gay adult star Jeremy Bilding, who also performs under the name Ryan Driller on the straight side, has an agreement with his agent to only be considered for gigs and roles in which condoms are used.

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  • Jeremy Bilding

But what is commonly unshared, or possibly simply unknown, to most is that the industry does in fact regulate testing. Studios on the straight side require a fresh test every 30 days - some ask for them every two weeks - and more often the performers themselves require up-to-date results before getting down to business.

"There are performers that will require their scene partners to have a test done two days before the scene. I test every two-to-three weeks, unless I haven't been shooting or having any sexual contact," Bilding told AfterDarkLA.

In Bilding's experience with other performers, when test results aren't present, condoms are mandated. But in order for him to follow through with a scene, he must see current test results and a fresh condom ready to be ripped open. It's his choice.

"The industry is rapidly changing," Bilding said. "I'm starting to see more and more studios changing to condom and testing mandates. Very few studios do bareback [without condom] scenes. Condoms are pretty much the mandate in the gay side."

The Rumor Mill

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Immediately following the news break, porn star and industry blog Twitter feeds lit up with "Is [insert porn guy's name here] Patient Zero?" and "Is there another infected performer?" comments with links to corresponding blog posts which have since been deleted.


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Twitter's amazing ability to communicate with and spread information to hundreds of thousands of people in seconds unfortunately allowed these people to inaccurately "out" adult performers who were rumored to be - and ended up not being - infected.

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It also fueled the hype. There was one single infected party. No one within the quarantined group, as of today, has turned up with a positive HIV test. Despite this, the term "outbreak" has been used ad nauseam to describe last week's events, merely adding fuel to the fire.

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"One confirmed positive does not an outbreak make," AVN's Javors said. "The [mainstream] media has certainly sensationalized the issue."

If three hairs fall out of my head, I don't tell my hairdresser that I'm going bald. I wait for more hair to clog the drain and if does, then I've got reason to feel nervous and start shopping for wigs.

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Porn is Not the Wild West

The adult industry is not comprised of a bunch of nymphos and drug addicts running from back-room porn set to brightly lit basement without a (health)care in the world. Performers are responsible for their own well being and you have a better chance

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contracting an STI from that guy at the bar than the porn star you've always wanted to bang.

Porn's two most recent HIV positive incidents, and possibly this third case, likely were the result of extracurricular fraternization.

In 2004 former performer Darren James unknowingly spread HIV to three female performers. It is speculated that James contracted the disease while in Brazil, not while on a U.S. porn set.

In June 2009 a female performer had been working for several days before receiving a positive HIV test. Further investigation revealed she had contracted it from a partner who was not a member of the industry.

And though it's not public who the current Patient Zero is, it's been said that he (as many adult performers these days) also works as a gay male escort, putting him at greater risk for STI contraction. The odds that he was infected by an outside party are good.

Straight performer Tommy Gunn told adult industry writer Gram Ponante that the simple solution is to closely monitor the FOBs in the biz to make sure they're not bringing anything in from the outside world.

"Make a barrier to entry," Gunn told Ponante. "Make new people have to get tested once a month for three months before they get in. Quarantine the rest of California. I haven't had civilian sex in years."

Meanwhile outside organizations such as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) have taken the initiative to attack the industry for what it considers inadequate testing requirements and lack of condom use. AHF President Michael Weinstein said in a statement that Los Angeles County must step in and "do its job" by regulating condom use before more performers are put at risk.

But whom we haven't heard from are the performers.

"I think that's the real debate," AVN's Javors said. "The performers are the ones who should be discussing this issue as it impacts their health directly. It's their bodies, health and futures on the line. And it would be a good move to support the performers in whatever decision they make."

click to enlarge Kayden Kross
  • Kayden Kross

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