HIV/Aids

14 October 2010

Porn industry rocked by HIV

More than half a dozen pornographers in California's multibillion-dollar adult entertainment industry have halted production after an actor tested positive for HIV.

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More than half a dozen pornographers in California's multibillion-dollar adult entertainment industry have halted production after an actor tested positive for HIV.

Vivid Entertainment Group and Wicked Pictures were among the companies that announced production halts as a precaution.

"From Vivid's perspective, there was no question that when we heard this, we immediately shut down production and said let's get the facts and evaluate them before we move forward," Steven Hirsch, the founder of Vivid, one of the largest makers of adult films, said.

"Adult entertainment companies act responsibly, and no one wants to see another person test positive if there's anything they can do to stop it," he said.

More companies expected to halt production

Actors in movies by Wicked Pictures use condoms. Still, company president Steve Orenstein said two shoots were on hold and production depends on further HIV test results from a clinic that serves the industry.

PinkVisual Productions is also slated to halt production for at least a few weeks. Adult Video News reported additional shutdowns at Hustler Video, Digital Playground, Jennaration X Studios, Girlfriends Films and Kick Ass Pictures.

The identity and gender of the HIV-positive actor have not been released by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, the clinic where the case was discovered.

The clinic was working to identify and test on-screen partners of the actor.

Since the 2004 outbreak

Since the 2004 outbreak, 25 cases of HIV have been discovered at the AIM clinic and at least 8 of those were adult film performers, said Dr Robert Kim-Farley, the communicable disease director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

County public health officials and state occupational health officials have said the widespread lack of condom use on porn sets puts performers at risk of contracting HIV and other diseases. Adult film producers have said viewers find condoms to be a turnoff.

"We strongly feel that condom use should be required in this industry; just like a construction worker wouldn't go into a construction site without a hard hat, an adult industry performer should not be having sexual acts unprotected without a condom," said Kim-Farley.

Panic in the industry

Last year, a woman tested positive for HIV after making an adult film, and in 2004 an HIV outbreak affecting several actors spread panic in the industry and briefly shut down productions at several California studios.

In recent years, advocates and health officials have tussled with porn producers and free speech advocates over the use of condoms in adult films.

State workplace safety officials at Cal/OSHA are considering strengthening rules designed to prevent transmission of disease by requiring the use of condoms in the films.

Health and workplace safety officials say they have called on the clinic where the case was discovered to share redacted records that would indicate an infected worker's employment history, but the clinic has not complied.

Lawyers for the San Fernando Valley clinic said it was in full compliance with reporting and privacy laws and health officials have overstepped their bounds in the past.

The lawyers said in a statement that a Northern California judge has gone so far as to stop state officials from getting identifying information because it violates medical privacy regulations.

HIV/Aids

HIV is spread most often through sexual contact but can also be contracted through sharing contaminated needles for drug use, infected blood products, or by babies born to or breast-fed by infected women.

HIV is the cause of Aids, an immune disease that gradually destroys the body's ability to fight illness. In an average month, Vivid spends $250,000 (about R1.7 million) to shoot four movies, which require a total of 12 to 15 days of shooting, Hirsch said.

The company currently has a stockpile of unreleased movies, and it would take months without any new production activity to affect Vivid's release schedule, he added.

Mark Kernes, senior editor at Adult Video News, said he expects most production companies to shut down until it's known who had contact with the person known to have HIV.

It's unclear how the industry's bottom line might be affected by halted production because many companies such as Vivid could sustain sales with backlogs of unreleased titles, Kernes said.

Like other entertainment industries, adult film makers have been hurt by the recession and the Internet, where pirating and free downloads often cut producers out of profits.

Last year, in a tongue-in-cheek complaint about the sour economy, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild chief executive Joe Francis called for a $5 billion (about R34 billion) federal bailout. They said adult DVD sales and rentals decreased 22%.

(Sapa, Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, October 2010)

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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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