Porn hasn’t had an HIV outbreak since 2004, when Darren James contracted HIV after shooting outside of the US. The adult industry, lead by AIM Healthcare, had an industry-wide 60-day long moratorium and quarantine of every performer who had worked with Darren James or any of the female performers who contracted HIV from him. I was personally fourth generation exposure. Which means, I worked with someone who worked with one of the women Darren James worked with. Since then, the porn industry has had no outbreaks in eight years. That is largely because of our strict 28-day testing rule. We do not work without a current, clean test. This is not a law, it’s a universally agreed upon and adhered to industry standard. And it works. There is probably not a more frequently tested group of people on the planet than adult performers in Los Angeles. This is not an “at risk” community. Statistically speaking, there are hundreds of more “at risk” communities in the world, and even in LA itself.
In 2009, the LA Public Health department and the LA Times claimed that there were 16 unreported cases of HIV among adult film actors. AIM Healthcare Foundation reported that these cases were actually members of the general public or people applying to work in the adult film industry that had not yet actually worked in films due to their initial test being positive. This is further evidence that testing has worked in keeping the industry HIV-free.
The system we had in place with AIM Healthcare wasn’t perfect, but we did have a central testing facility with one database. That is, until AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) pushed the Public Health Dept to investigate AIM Healthcare and, due to legal expenses and harassment lawsuits, AIM was forced to close their doors in 2010. Now, there are multiple testing facilities and draw stations with no central database. This means that in the case of an emergency like an HIV outbreak, it would be harder to quarantine and track performers, basically making us less safe.
The gay porn industry is largely condom-only but doesn’t require testing. If the straight industry adopted these same standards, performers would be less safe because condoms break. Now, most porn veterans like myself, Belladonna and others get RNA HIV tests, which detects HIV within two days of exposure. And we get our results within 24 hours of testing. This is the most advanced HIV test out there and it is affordable and available to the general public.
The AHF championed this current condom law by paying people for signatures to get it on the ballot and pushing the city council to just pass a law rather than spend four million dollars creating a ballot initiative. The effect that’s had and is still having is that it’s decentralised healthcare in the industry and pushed it underground. Again, this makes us less safe.
The AHF has also pushed to have adult performers categorised as “employees” rather than independent contractors, so that we fall under the jurisdiction of State employee safeguard Cal/OSHA and face the same “barrier protection” requirements as medical professionals. (Which, by the way, doesn’t mean just condoms, but also dental dams, gloves, goggles and masks.)
The vast majority of adult performers work for dozens of different companies in a year and seldom the same one more than a few times. If that’s not an independent contractor then the law needs to change. Regardless, it’s illegal to require an HIV test of an “employee” in California (or most States).
Testing has kept us safe and while some performers might not mind the idea of condoms in some circumstances, no one would feel safer with condoms instead of testing! There has been a lot of speculation within the industry as to what the AHF’s motivations are. Headlines? Fundraising? Grant money? Nobody is naive enough to believe that its intention is to make porn more safe. Everything the AHF has done has made us less safe.