Fear infects LA porn industry after star tests positive for HIV

The fear is back in the San Fernando Valley, home to the American adult film industry.

One day after a clinic that treats most of the business's on-screen "talent" revealed that one of its patients had tested positive for HIV, a frantic search was under way last night for other actors who may have been exposed to the virus on set.

While neither the name nor the gender of the infected performer was being revealed, studios were already showing signs of slipping into panic mode, reminiscent of events in 2004 when an HIV outbreak spread through the industry, closing almost all production for a month. Already yesterday two of the largest porn production houses, Wicked Pictures and Vivid Entertainment, had halted filming pending the outcome of the clinic's investigation.

Not everybody is surprised about the new scare and it comes on the heels of repeated warnings from health advocacy groups that a new outbreak was almost bound to happen, in part because state rules that mandate the use of condoms on set to protect actors and encourage safe sex practices among the public are widely disregarded.

"I knew it was going to happen. And how many years has it been?" Darren James, the adult film performer who was at the centre of the 2004 scare, told the Los Angeles Times. "They went right back to the same habits."

James had tested negative shortly before appearing in a film in the spring of that year. Shortly afterwards a test came back positive. He was among 14 performers who were infected with the potentially lethal virus in that single outbreak.

News of the latest case was broken by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, known as AIM, which has traditionally provided healthcare to actors from most of the main studios. A spokesperson declined also to identify the studio that the affected actor worked for.

Spearheading criticism of the industry is the Los Angeles-based Aids Healthcare Foundation, which advocates a tightening of the rules, notably through the introduction of tougher state laws on condom use. Michael Weinstein, the president of the foundation, says this will be the ninth HIV-positive actor to be treated by the AIM since 2004. The clinic and the industry will "do everything in its power to prevent us from knowing who was impacted", he said.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has estimated that workers in the adult film industry are 10 times more likely to contract some sexually transmitted disease than members of the general public. Current federal law requires that porn actors are tested for HIV up to 30 days before showing up for filming.

Whether new laws and scares like this one will be sufficient to persuade studios to change the way they work is hard to know.

"There is no way to make the industry risk-free. Making things safer does not make it safe," the porn star Jeremy Steele said at a hearing in Los Angeles in June. "If you're worried or paranoid, you should not be in this industry."

In August Mr Weinstein and his foundation lodged a formal complaint against Larry Flynt, the legendary free-speech pioneer and owner of the Hustler brand, for allowing on-set talent to perform without protection. The complaint also triggered a large protest outside the company headquarters. Mr Flynt replied, however, that he was delivering "what the consumer wants".

"This is not an underground industry," Mr Weinstein said at the press conference following the protest. "The industry should and can be regulated if the political establishment has the courage to do it. How much blood money do you need?"

Few observers of the pornography trade are likely to be more depressed by this latest development than Mr James. "The actors... they're not getting the protection that they need. There should have been mandatory condoms," he said. "Good grief, it's like my deal all over again. I hate that."

Mr James has become a leading advocate for condom use. At a recent hearing on industry practices he criticised studios for relying too heavily on the law that stipulates health testing 30 days before filming.

"You think you're safe, but you're not. In between scenes, you don't know what other actors are doing. I'm living your nightmare every day."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor