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L.A. area porn filming halted after performer tests positive for HIV

A trade group notifies porn studios on Monday that a performer had tested positive and urged them to temporarily halt filming until further testing can be done.

August 30, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
  • Members of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation protest about half a block from the XBiz Awards in Hollywood earlier this year.
Members of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation protest about half a block from… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

An adult film performer has tested HIV-positive, prompting a temporary shutdown of productions across the Los Angeles area until further testing is completed.

"Until we know for sure, we've asked the industry to have a moratorium on production," said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a Canoga Park-based porn industry trade group.

Duke's group became aware of the possible HIV case Saturday. Duke would not say how her group learned about the case and did not release the name, age or gender of the performer, citing medical privacy laws.

She said she notified adult film production companies Monday morning that a performer had tested positive and urged them to temporarily halt productions until further tests were completed.

All the company officials she spoke with, including those at well-known studios such as Hustler Video and Evil Angel, agreed to the temporary shutdown, she said.

Production companies referred questions about the moratorium to Duke.

Duke's group was notifying actors known to have performed with the potentially infected person so they could get tested, she said.

"Retesting and confirmation is underway as is the process of identifying and testing first- and second-generation partners," she said, referring to those who had sex with the person or with one of that person's sex partners.

It was not clear how that process would work. As Duke noted in a statement released to industry media, the performer tested positive at an out-of-state testing facility "that does not appear to have protocols or procedures in place for medical follow-up (including generational testing)."

State and L.A. County health officials had not received any reports of new HIV cases among adult performers Monday, spokeswomen said. Duke said that was because the performer tested positive in another state, although she would not specify which state.

In California, adult film performers must be tested every 30 days and show proof of a negative test before they perform, according to voluntary industry standards.

AIM Medical Associates P.C. had been operating the industry's database of test results before it closed in May while fighting a lawsuit that alleged it revealed performers' private medical information.

Last month, Duke's group launched a new testing database, the Adult Performer Health and Safety Services, designed to provide porn producers and agents with access to results from numerous testing facilities. Duke said it would be at least another month before testing is complete and the database is fully functional.

The new database will show only whether performers are available for work, not their specific test results, as AIM had done, Duke said.

AIM officials, who opened the Sherman Oaks-based clinic in 1998, had drawn criticism for opposing condom use in the porn industry and insisting that frequent tests could protect performers from HIV. They continued to defend their position even after performer Derrick Burts tested HIV-positive at AIM last year.

Burts has since joined an effort by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation to get a measure placed on the city's June 2012 ballot that would require adult film performers to use condoms in order for porn filmmakers to obtain L.A. city film permits.

They must submit a petition with at least 41,138 qualifying signatures by Dec. 23 to place the measure on the June ballot. If they succeed, it will be the first time the issue — litigated and disputed during state regulatory meetings — would come before voters.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said the latest HIV case shows why testing is not an adequate substitute for condoms. He called on Los Angeles city officials to pull all adult film permits until they can require performers to use condoms.

Officials at Film L.A. Inc., the nonprofit that issues the permits, said they could not suspend productions without city authorization. The City Council is in recess until Sept. 6.

"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?" Weinstein said, adding that the latest reported infection shows an "outrageous disregard for the health and safety of performers and the community at large."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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