If you're going to have sex, the adult film industry is probably the safest place to have it, the recent HIV cases notwithstanding.
That's because employers like me require that every performer in the business be tested every 30 days, not just for HIV but for gonorrhea and chlamydia as well. It's because of such aggressive testing that this HIV outbreak in the adult industry has been caught early and can be controlled. In other words, the industry's approach to HIV safety is working. I believe that additional regulation would not only be unnecessary, it would be counterproductive.
The adult film industry in Southern California is not being run by a bunch of dirty old men in the back room of some sleazy warehouse. Today, in the state, XXX entertainment is a $9-billion-to-$14-billion business run with the same kind of thought and attention to detail that you'd find at GE, Mattel or Tribune Co.
As of this writing, only two people have tested positive in the current scare -- Darren James, thought to be the original carrier, and Lara Roxx, who is assumed to have been exposed to the disease by James. (It's worth noting that James is believed to have been exposed to the AIDS virus when he shot an adult movie in Brazil, where the industry does not have the same testing system or standards in place.) Fifty-three other adult film actors who had sexual contact with James and Roxx -- in an industry of approximately 1,200 performers -- are currently under "quarantine," according to Sharon Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation. Both AIM and Adult Video News, the leading industry news website, have urged a production moratorium until June 8, a 60-day hiatus from the first positive test results. By then, the industry should be able to confirm that the outbreak hasn't spread.
My company is following those recommendations. The other major players in the industry are doing the same.
Now let's talk about testing. The adult film industry uses the PCR/DNA test, the Cadillac of HIV testing. It has the highest level of accuracy and the quickest detection time of any testing method -- two weeks from exposure, give or take a day or two. Using that test, the adult film industry has been very effective at and responsible in voluntarily regulating itself. After all, with a protocol in place and tests easily available, what performer in his right mind would do an adult film without seeing the test results of his colleagues? AIM has detected only 11 HIV cases since 1998.
Public health officials in Los Angeles County and the state are using the cases of James and Roxx to try to force the use of condoms in all adult films. That may sound like a good idea, but it's not. Market testing -- and conventional wisdom -- tells us that films that feature actors wearing condoms don't sell. That means that forcing condom use on the industry is more likely to have a negative rather than positive effect on HIV protection. It would drive the industry underground or out of state to where there is no testing, let alone a condom requirement. The net result would surely be more HIV infections.
State and county officials are resurrecting another suggestion -- that the industry poses a threat not just to the performers but to the general public as well, because performers also have sex outside the industry. This, I believe, is utter nonsense intended to scare people into regulating adult films. You have a greater likelihood of getting HIV from your neighbor, who is not tested on a regular basis, than from a performer in the industry whose medical records are, in effect, an open book.
Ira Levine, chairman of the board of directors of AIM, points out that "the speed with which AIM 'quarantined' these people illustrates how the adult industry has the most effective HIV prevention protocol in the USA, more effective than any other prevention program in L.A. County." Levine also notes that AIM has kept out of the industry a significant number of actors who couldn't pass the HIV test.
Those of us who are in the business want to protect our investment; we are not going to do anything that is stupid or shortsighted. We are most certainly not going to do anything that we believe will harm another human being. The safeguards are already in place. They have worked for the last five years. Leave them alone, and they will continue to work.