HIV Scares And Porn

Adult Industry Medical has recently announced that an adult performer has tested positive HIV and many people are revisiting arguments about what can be done to insure the health and safety of all performers.

The debate over whether or not condoms should be mandatory on adult sets continues to rage, but there are also people inside the industry who believe that separating straight and gay performers would be a preferable option. Duke Skywalker, producer of the websites FacialAbuse.Com, GhettoGaggers.Com, DefaceHerFace.Com. and LatinaAbuse.Com stated on Twitter, “Any company that allows homo’s [sic] and straight female talent to inter-mingle should be blacklisted.”

In the adult industry, there are many “gay-for-pay” models because, generally speaking, the rates for male models creating gay content are much higher than they are for straight content. Duke Skywalker is not alone in his bias. There are numerous female performers who simply won’t work with male models who do crossover work for fear of HIV infection and often times at the advice of some agents and producers.

These stories always catch my eye. I have been deeply involved in HIV prevention as a tester for over 6 years. I am also an adult performer and my partner has a few shoots of his own under his belt for both gay and straight content. One thing that I have always stressed about HIV infection is that it is the result of an act rather than an identity. Unprotected receptive anal sex is a high risk activity in regards to HIV infection, not bi- or homosexuality. Given that adult models have their own personal sex lives, what you see depicted on camera may not accurately represent what they enjoy in their personal lives and the type of protection they may or may not be using. Attempting to create a wall between “gay” performers and “straight” performers is unlikely to help prevent infection because it will never account for anything that happens off camera whereas a physical barrier like a condom will.

Darren James, the former performer who was at the center of the 2004 HIV scare has been an outspoken critic of the lack of condom use in the adult industry. James had received a negative test result just days prior to shooting, but due to the window period inherent to HIV testing his result did not accurately reflect his status and three of his costars were infected. He has been speaking out about condoms in porn and is a supporter of mandatory use to prevent his story from happening to anyone else.

When most people test for HIV, they are administered an antibody test. Rather than looking for the presence of the virus itself, this test is seeking out the body’s reaction to HIV. It takes the human body at least two weeks to produce antibodies in response to an infection. Some bodies will take up to six months but a three month window is when most people (97% of the population) will have detectable levels of antibodies. This period of time is known as the window period because it reveals a gap of time in which a person may be infected with HIV and capable of transmitting the virus to someone else even though the test may not detect its presence.

This window period is very unsuitable for the adult industry. Instead of an antibody test, the adult industry relies on a PCR/RNA test which is state of the art for detection. This test is looking for the virus itself and reduces the window period down to about 12-16 days. In the world of straight porn, performers in the self-regulated industry are required to show results from a test administered in the past 30 days. Although there are gaps, this method has been very effective at reducing the rate of HIV among performers. Given that there are roughly 1,200-1,500 active performers being tested positive test results are relatively rare. Nevertheless, the risk is real and present especially for those who have had their health compromised because they trusted the testing system to keep them safe.

Performing in porn does come with risks, but so do many jobs. Working on a construction site puts workers in constant risk for injury and yet they are required by law to have safety standards for their employees that includes helmets, training, and regular inspections. Many people worry that it would be impossible to regulate the porn industry in the same way and fear that mandatory condom use would drive production underground. More realistically, many porn viewers object to seeing condoms in porn and the presence of condoms does have an impact on sales. One of my colleagues once had the experience of a director telling her that she wasn’t pretty enough to be able to use a condom on camera because of how much it would effect the profit margin for the shoot. As I look back on comments for some of my shoots there will always be the inevitable statement disparaging my choice to use condoms, always, because it has ruined the fantasy and aesthetic of the shoot.

Right now, it takes gumption for a performer to insist on condoms. While I am on the fence about mandatory use myself I can only hope that if I keep fighting to have my standards of health met that others will too. One of the many reasons I began performing on camera was to help eroticize the use of condoms because HIV and other STI’s are not solely the problem of models, it is everyone’s problem.

Wolf Hudson gets AIM tested. Squeamish people be warned: this contains a footage of a blood draw

[Image courtesy of WikiCommons]

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About Miss Maggie Mayhem

Miss Maggie Mayhem has worn many sex positive hats over the years. She has six years of experience as an HIV Prevention Specialist proving testing, counseling, and results disclosure as well as street based outreach for at risk youth. She is also a volunteer at the San Francisco Sex Information Hotline offering education and information to callers from around the world. She is also an erotic performer in San Francisco and loves to meet new people and show them new things. Maggie has also just recently returned from Haiti where she was part of the earthquake recovery and is looking for her next chance to go back and pick up her beloved 16lb sledge hammer once again.

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    I know of one gay performer who announced (after being “outed” by a gay porn blog no less) that he’s tested positive, quite recently.

    As in the health of all individuals, this is between them and their doctor.
    What performers get up to and agree to do on film is their business and not the concern of viewers, critics or media.

    The fact is, in the industry the risks come with the territory. As do risks for any person having unprotected sex.
    You make the choice and you live with the consequences.

    Why there should be different rules for porn stars is anyone’s guess. It’s their body, they choose to have protected sex or unprotected like everyone else.

    IMO, there’s not much to debate.