HIV Is Officially a Bedfellow in Porn

Performers protest against mandatory condoms.
Performers protest against mandatory condoms.
Neon Tommy/Flickr

The industry denied it for years. Sure, there are porn stars who have contracted HIV, but never on set, at least not since 2004.

The business argued that its twice-a-month STD testing for performers, though voluntary, has worked to keep on-set outbreaks at bay. When a porn star tests positive, production is put under a moratorium until all partners are isolated and accounted for.

The Hollywood-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been trying to force the industry to adopt condom use for years. As part of its campaign, including a successful voter initiative in Los Angeles County that requires condoms in porn and a similar one that's headed for the statewide ballot, it has been watchful of STD reports within adult video.

The AHF this week announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has concluded a 2014 adult video shoot resulted in on-set HIV transmission.

"The industry can no longer say there has not been an on-set HIV transmission since 2004," AHF spokesman Ged Kenslea told us. "This irrefutably overturns that."

Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, the industry's trade group, said the transmission in question didn't happen in California and didn't involve a production that observed industry testing protocols.

The CDC confirmed the transmission in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The revelation is informational only — it's not for enforcement purposes — and it appears the case is closed, state workplace health and California Department of Public Health officials said.

"No California companies were involved in the case," a spokeswoman for the California Department of Industrial Relations told us.

The CDPH published an Occupational Health Alert on the transmission in late 2014:

A male adult entertainment actor obtained a test for HIV that was negative. Over the following two-week period, the actor had unprotected sex with several other male actors during two separate film shoots. During the second film shoot, he had symptoms of a viral infection. The actor went to a clinic and had another blood test that showed he had recently become infected with HIV. 

It's not clear if the transmission happened in California or Nevada, AHF officials said. 

"The case reported as a Nevada case happened around the same time," said AHF president Michael Weinstein. "To the best of my knowledge the person lived in California."

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Some of the STD testing in the case happened in the Golden State, AHF's Kenslea said. That apparently led to a joint investigation with Nevada and California Department of Public Health officials, he said.

The performer in question worked on two different sets with a dozen partners, Kenslea said. One on-set partner and one off-set partner ended up HIV-positive, he said.

"There's a broader impact than just in the industry," Weinstein told us.

The AHF says the case proves that the industry's STD testing system, Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS), doesn't work as advertised.

The organization says that, despite the industry's statements to the contrary, the performer in question used "a PASS-approved testing facility, which utilizes the PASS database."

Leue of the Free Speech Coalition reiterated the argument that this transmission was outside the industry's watchful eyes:

The CDC report refers to an incident from several years ago involving a out-of-state, noncompliant production in Nevada, where the industry testing protocols (known as PASS) were not observed. While AHF would like to claim otherwise, there is no comparison between shoots which used expired, non-uniform tests, and the industry's comprehensive 14-day-testing protocol. 

... No HIV transmissions has occurred on a PASS-compliant sets in over a decade. 

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