HIV/Aids

15 June 2009

Porn industry HIV investigated

Health officials are looking into the latest HIV case in the porn industry, fearing that reckless practices on film sets might be raising the risk of new infections.

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Health officials are looking into the latest HIV case reported in the US state of California's multibillion-dollar porn industry, fearing that reckless practices on film sets might be raising the risk of new infections.

It was revealed this week that a woman tested positive for HIV immediately after making an adult film. The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health is attempting to identify the filmmaker, at which point a formal investigation would begin.

"Our concern is that we need to quickly get to the employer so that we can work with them to change their practices to ensure the proper safety measures are being taken to prevent the additional spread of HIV," agency spokesman Dean Fryer said.

'Actors' tested every month
The actress's positive result was reported by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, which declined to reveal her name. Known in the industry as AIM, the organisation tests hundreds of actors each month in the San Fernando Valley, where the US porn industry is headquartered. It grants those who pass certificates allowing them to work.

Los Angeles County health officials say there have been 22 confirmed HIV cases in industry performers since 2004. Although the co-stars of the woman involved in the latest case have tested negative, they have been quarantined from acting for the time being, and advised to be retested in two weeks because medical experts say it takes almost that long for a person to show signs of infection.

Reports on risky behaviour
Government health officials say they are dubious about safe-sex practices on adult film sets, despite assurances from the industry. Dr Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health, said there are "persistent reports" about risky behaviour.

Regulations require filmmakers to provide protection against the transmission of disease, such as condoms or using film techniques that involve simulations.

"There is no reason these infections should be occurring if these employers are following these precautions," Fryer said.

2004 outbreak
After an HIV outbreak in 2004 spread panic through the industry and briefly shut down production at several studios, many producers began making condoms a requirement. But they said both actors and audiences quickly rebelled.

"What happened was the talent didn't want to use condoms," said Steven Hirsch, co-Chief Executive of Vivid Entertainment Group, one of the industry's largest filmmakers. "As a result, we decided to go condom optional." – (Sapa-AP, June 2009)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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