Porn Industry Rebounds After STD Scare

An adult video set
An adult video set
Gustavo Turner/L.A. Weekly

The pornography business was back on track this week after a performer's positive HIV test prompted the industry's trade group to call for a four-day halt to production. During the hiatus, the test was double-checked and there were efforts to determine if other porn stars might have been exposed.

It turns out that the performer, who was not identified, contracted HIV through a personal relationship, according to a statement from the L.A.-based Free Speech Coalition. It went on to say that the performer has not worked for nearly a month and "did not in any way compromise or affect the performer pool." The shutdown had been announced Saturday.

Hollywood's AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which historically has been critical about the alleged ease with which HIV can spread in the porn business, has been unusually silent this week. A spokesman for the nonprofit did not respond to our inquires. AHF spearheaded Los Angeles County's voter-approved law that requires condoms in porn here. Its statewide initiative, which would have done the same from San Diego to Crescent City, was rejected by voters in November.

Condoms still remain the rule for adult video production, according to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), but enforcement has been inconsistent.

"They're conspicuous by their absence," Adam Grayson, chief financial officer for adult video studio Evil Angel, says of AHF. "A majority of California voters said this [mandatory condoms] isn't important to me, so maybe there's an erosion of AHF's will on this."

"Their politicization of the discussion only works against performer health, because it forces performers to take sides in what should be an nuanced, open discussion," Mike Stabile, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, said via email.

The industry, long resistant to condoms, maintains a twice-a-month testing protocol for active performers. Leaders in the business argue that it keeps porn stars safe — at least those who don't contract HIV from partners outside the business.

Adult industry blogger Mike South, who has published big scoops on porn's HIV issues in the past, pointed out this week that increasingly popular video shoots for website-only content often don't require testing or condoms.
Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed something that the industry claims hasn't happened in 10 years: the on-set transmission of HIV. At the time, however, Free Speech Coalition executive director Eric Paul Leue said the transmission did not occur in California and didn't involve a producer that observed the group's testing protocol.

But testing is essentially voluntary, and so are production moratoriums. Most large production houses in L.A.'s "Porn Valley" appear to follow the protocol, however, and the industry tries to enforce work stoppages by locking up the test results performers are expected to have on set.

The industry's testing system "has once again successfully prevented any transmission of HIV on a regulated adult set ...," according to the FSC. "We are working with the performer to get them to the resources and treatment to help manage their status, and appreciate their commitment, honesty and participation."


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