AIDS scare shuts down porn industry

The US porn industry is being put on hold.
One of the biggest enterprises in America has come to a crushing halt as an AIDS scare is causing panic within the country’s pornography industry, a blowback on a business that generates billions of dollars each year in the US.

An adult film performer that tested positive for HIV last week has signaled a country-wide cease in one of the most profitable industries in America. A spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the trade association for the adult entertainment industry, tells The Los Angeles Times that they became aware of the case over the weekend, and while the performer is undergoing a second-round of testing, porno shoots across the country have been put on hold.

Typically the American pornography industry brings in upwards of $14 billion a year, according to a piece published by the New York Times Magazine.

The Free Speech Coalition does not expect to have the results of the newest tests until next week, and on Monday the FSC’s executive director, Diane Due, told The LA Times that a production moratorium across Southern California has been placed while the case is being investigated. On Tuesday, however, Molly Hennessy-Fiske of The LA Times told CNN today that the FSC is now experiencing “an industry-wide moratorium.”

Southern California is considered the hub of the American pornography industry, but the case in question was identified at a clinic out of state that doesn’t typically report to California state officials. The FSC is withholding the name, age and gender of the person in question, but is trying to identify recent partners, professional and non, that could help crack the case. So far officials have not identified any other infected people, but are asking those in the industry to be tested.

The Free Speech Coalition requires that porn performers be regularly tested, at least once a month, and are not cleared for acting until test results come back clean. Only last month the FSC began work on an online database that would provide porn insiders with information regarding test results of potential performers, though the program won’t be finished and launched until next month.

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been petitioning in recent weeks to get a measure in voting booths that would require actors working inside Los Angeles to wear a condom if they want to continue their line of work.

"How many performers must become infected with HIV and other serious STDs before the industry will clean up its act and government will do the right thing?" President Michael Weinsten of the Foundation said to the LA Times last week, adding that the current case shows an "outrageous disregard for the health and safety of performers and the community at large."

They will need over 41,000 signatures by Christmas to get the measure put on the June 2012 ballot in LA. Insiders in the porn biz say that the rubber regulation would drive customers away, and thus business from Southern California. At a hearing last year, a porn actor going by the name Jeremy Steele told a courtroom , "There is no way to make the industry risk-free. Making things safer does not make it safe.”

“If you're worried or paranoid, you should not be in this industry,” added Steele.

"As someone who is still working on the camera myself, I don't feel any safer with condoms," actress Nina Hartley echoed at the same hearing in Los Angeles.

Those outside the adult film industry are being subjected to a similar scare, however, which isn’t believed to be linked. A report today out of Wisconsin revealed that upwards of 2,300 patients may have been accidentally exposed to HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases after a nurse improperly used diabetic needles. A report from Reuters today says a nurse that was instructing newly-diagnosed diabetics on using insulin pens used a sterile needle in each instant, but backwashes of blood may have contaminated the actual device, which was used countless times. The nurse worked at various clinics before the scandal was uncovered, and has since resigned from the profession. Meanwhile, Wisconsin health officials are trying to locate every patient of the nurse from the last five years.

Porn actor Derrick Burts tested positive for HIV in late 2010, which led to a similar shut-down of the adult film industry. Since then Burts has gone on the record to push for mandatory condom use. Others in the sex biz have been unsuccessful with their battle with AIDS however, with AIDS and HIV-related illnesses taking the lives of far too many mainstream porn performers in recent years. A 25-year-old actor performing under the pseudonym Craven Cox passed away from HIV complications last year, joining the ranks of dozens of others. American porno icon John Holmes passed away in 1988 at age 43 from AIDS related complications, but only after staring in around 2,500 adult films.

Another actor, Darren James, tested positive in 2004, but not before spreading the disease throughout the industry. He tested positive on April 13 of this year, but was linked to at least 13 partners on film in the month prior. From there, one woman also tested positive for HIV, and the other 11 partners were thus linked to nearly two dozen other entertainers that they had sex with during that month. By the time the outbreak was contained, the epidemic had snowballed and led four actors and actresses to test positive for HIV.

The Pink Cross Foundation released a fact sheet last year that showed that 18 performers passed away from AIDS-related illnesses since 2000. 100 performers in all are believed to have succumbed to AIDS-related deaths since the 1980s.