Group Says HIV ‘Outbreak’ Contained Among Adult Film Actors; L.A. Health Officials Obtain Workers’ Medical Records
The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation on Thursday said that an HIV "outbreak" among actors in the pornography film industry has been contained and spoke out against government regulation of the industry, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. AIM on Thursday also turned over to Los Angeles County health officials the medical records of 51 adult film actors who may have been exposed to the virus, as well as the records of the two actors who recently tested HIV-positive. County health officials had ordered the foundation to provide the legal names, contact information and four months of HIV tests results for the exposed performers, according to the AP/Journal-Constitution (Jablon, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/23). The records were obtained as part of an investigation launched Tuesday by county Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding. After adult film actor Darren James tested positive for HIV last week, at least 45 workers who may have had unprotected sex with James or his sex partners agreed to a voluntary work quarantine. Actress Lara Roxx, who worked with James on at least one movie, also tested positive. About 12 companies have agreed to a 60-day production moratorium until HIV testing is completed, industry experts said. About 1,200 adult film actors once a month undergo testing for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, and many production companies require performers to show their test results before filming. AIM, which conducts much of the monthly testing, posted on its Web site the stage names of individuals who potentially had been exposed to James, Roxx or one of the actors' onscreen sex partners. However, the health department requested the actors' legal names, which it said would be more useful in its efforts to contact the actors and anyone outside of the industry with whom they may have had sex (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/22).
"We consider this a violation of our clients' medical privacy," AIM Board Chair Ira Levine said. AIM Executive Director Sharon Mitchell said that fear of public disclosure could discourage performers from undergoing the monthly voluntary testing, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, county health officials said that the actors' legal names and medical information would remain confidential. According to Dr. Peter Kerndt of the sexually transmitted disease program at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the information will be used only to help contact the actors' personal partners and no one will be required to share information about his or her sexual relationships, the Times reports. Kerndt said that the department's standard procedure is to "inform and protect" people in a workplace who may have been exposed to significant illness or injury. He added, "No one would bat an eye were one of these actors to have had tuberculosis and were we to go in. ... It's the same thing." Privacy laws generally bar the disclosure of medical information, but AIM clients sign waivers allowing their HIV status to be shared throughout the adult film industry through their stage names (Liu/Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 4/23).
Mitchell on Thursday said that four of the exposed performers already have tested HIV-negative and all of the involved actors have voluntarily stopped working until at least June, the AP/Journal-Constitution reports. In addition, about 80% of the industry has halted production until testing is complete, Mitchell said. "We are very confident that people are safe," Levine said, adding, "No additional transmissions of HIV from these cases are expected, either in the adult performer talent pool or in the community at large." Speaking at a press conference, Levine said that the application of government policies such as mandatory condom use on the industry would "have the certain impact of driving production underground and alienating performers from the health care system" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/23). State and county health officials on Monday said they believe existing regulations give them the authority to require adult film actors to use condoms during filming. Only two of the approximately 200 adult film production companies in Southern California require their performers to use condoms, and about 17% of adult film actors regularly use condoms, according to industry executives (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/22).
Regulation 'Unnecessary,' Larry Flynt Says
Additional government regulation of the porn industry would "not only be unnecessary, it would be counterproductive," Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. Due to mandatory monthly testing, a person has 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," Flynt says, adding that market testing of films that show actors wearing condoms indicate they "don't sell." Therefore, increased regulation would "drive the industry underground or out of [California] to [places] where there is no testing, let alone condom requirement," he says. "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. ... The safeguards are already in place [and] have worked for the last five years. Leave them alone and they will continue to work," Flynt concludes (Flynt, Los Angeles Times, 4/23).