opinion

Ruminations on Testing, Performer Safety

Steve Javors
With the news breaking in early June that a performer had tested HIV positive, the industry’s omnipresent gossip mill began to churn. Since AIM Healthcare changed its policy and didn’t release the women’s name to the industry at large — or the names of the performers under quarantine that she worked with — speculation spread fast.

While numerous adult news sites have covered subsequent details of the incident — thankfully Patient Zero hasn’t spread the virus to any of her co-stars and appears to have caught HIV from outside the industry — we felt it necessary to open the discussion many performers were having publicly on social networking sites and message boards and privately among themselves.

Continuing XBIZ Premiere’s commitment to the adult entertainment community, we decided to publish a selection of responses we received from some prominent industry members asking them for their thoughts, without specifically commenting on the current case.

BELLADONNA, PERFORMER/DIRECTOR/ PRODUCER, BELLADONNA ENTERTAINMENT
First of all, I’d like to say that I am thankful that the adult industry has become exceptionally safer since I first started performing back in 1999. Back then, testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea was not required, which I found to be ridiculous since those were the most common STDs. However, I do believe that if the 30-day window were shortened to at most, seven days, we could better prevent the spread of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, not to mention HIV.

Since I started testing people that I have sex with three days prior to our engagement, it has been over five years since I’ve contracted Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. I knowingly caught over a handful of performers with STDs by using this rule. As a female in this industry, I can say it feels damn good to not have to spend every week at the doctor’s office clearing up an STD and being out of work. I feel like I’m more excited about having sex and performing, knowing that I’m going to be STD free.

I also think it would be smart for new performers in the business to be required to get a full panel test prior to performing, not only for themselves to see where they stand, but for our industry as well. I think a lot of performers get into the business and already have the herpes virus and don’t know about it and then try to blame it on the industry.

Performers in this business need to be safer when having sexual relations outside of the industry. They need to be more responsible with safe sex because they know more than the average person when it comes to STDs and safe sex. If this were happening, the spread of STDs inside the business would be a fraction of what it is now.

As for condoms, personally, I can only be as safe as I can be without diminishing the value of what I’m trying to accomplish. Condoms just don’t feel good to suck on, or to take in the ass, hard and fast. If I were required to use condoms, my performance would most likely suffer, and in the end I would suffer. I’m not trying to debate with anyone here, I’m just saying, if my co-workers were more responsible, we could all make some great porn and be STD free at the same time.

To be perfectly honest, I understand my job is a high risk job, but there are many high risk jobs out there like construction workers on skyscrapers, oil riggers, stuntmen — but when these people get hurt on the job, do you see the world turning it into something its not? No, it’s just because people are not comfortable with themselves sexually and have to point fingers at us to make themselves feel better about it.

EON MCKAI, DIRECTOR, VIVID-ALT
As Smokey the Bear once said, “only you can prevent forest fires” — it’s time to understand what your responsibilities are. I would hate to see what would happen if government had a hand in how we test. As free speakers we have never been the most diplomatic group. But fanning the flames of HIV hysteria will only distract us from our work. We must hold ourselves to a high standard and demand it from others. AIM alone will not save us if our attitude is lax regarding health or if we are to focused on the money.

ERNEST GREENE, DIRECTOR
Yes, I do feel the current testing procedures are adequate, as 10-plus years of consistently lower rates of HIV transmission in our industry than in the general population conclusively demonstrates. However, I think it’s unwise to be complacent about this and I would have no objection to more frequent testing if producers and performers are willing to assume the added expense.

I think the industry could do more to protect performers by limiting certain high-risk behaviors, including internal ejaculations and double-anals. Also, while I think most producers are highly responsible when it comes to checking databases and test results, all producers have an interest in taking a stand against those few who have proven to be careless about these things.

The idea of mandatory condom use, whether attempted from within or imposed from without, is dangerous nonsense. It would be impossible to enforce and the effort to do so would almost certainly undermine the proven safeguards already in place for a variety of legal and practical reasons. This whole concept is a non-starter being pushed for political reasons by outsiders with hostile agendas toward porn having nothing to do with the health and safety of performers.

However, condoms should truly be an option for all performers who choose to use them. There are sound arguments both for and against the effectiveness of condoms as safety measures in porn production, but the final decision should rest with those most affected by the risks, the performers themselves. I’ve shot plenty of condom footage in the course of my career and sold plenty of video. These things are not inconsistent.

EVAN SEINFELD, PERFORMER/DIRECTOR/CEO, TERAVISION
In addition to the movies that Teravision produces, I personally shoot for my websites RockstarPimp.com and my new site coming out soon, RockstarPornstar.com. As a producer, director and the sole male performer of these particular sites, as well as a married man, I employ my own criteria for shooting to protect my family and myself.

I love my work and I value my health. I do not like shooting with condoms, as I hate they way they look and feel.

Presently Teravision has strict guidelines that we adhere to and have done so for over a year. I only shoot girls who have a test that is one or two days old. In certain instances I will even pay for the girl’s test.

I’m proud to say that I have never contracted an STD from a shoot and I have shot over 150 scenes with female performers, not inculding the 100 or so I shot with Tera Patrick — I wish I could say the same for my former single life as traveling rock musician!

If the entire industry conducted themselves in a similar manner, we could reduce the risk to virtually nothing and truly protect the performers. The problem is that most of the producers and company owners look at the stars — without whom they would not have a business — as expendables. Since I entered the adult industry first as a manager and a performer before I became a studio or producer, I definitely look at this differently than most.

I also do not perform with girls who perform in extreme scenes and do things in my opinion that expose themselves to greater than average risks. Dont forget, an outbreak of HIV or syphilis could cause our police state government to impose unfair sanctions on our industry through the CDC in an effort to “protect the safety of our citizens.”

Remember folks, if we don’t govern ourselves, some government agency may step in and attempt to impose their puritanical will on the industry.

The people at AIM Healthcare have been working so hard to be of service to our industry, and seem to care more than anyone I have spoken to. I would like to publicly ask the industry to consider a summit of all producers and even performers, along with AIM, to have a discussion to consider shortening the time between tests as a standard in the industry to protect our performers.

EVAN STONE, PERFORMER
1. Tests provided by the state for free;
2. Get tested two days before shooting.
What do we want? Soon, a test that is 100 percent accurate and can give results in 2 seconds.

JOANNA ANGEL, PERFORMER/DIRECTOR/COFOUNDER, BURNING ANGEL ENTERTAINMENT
I think the current testing procedures are adequate for the most part — it all depends on how often you work. I only do a handful of scenes a month, but people who work 20-plus times a month should probably be getting tested twice a month. I am sure everyone would get tested way more often (even weekly) if the government gave AIM any funding and we were able to get tested for free. I think for the amount of fucking that goes on in this business the amount of HIV outbreaks are so low, and I think the industry does a great job of quarantining everything quickly and keeping the performers safe.

I know that I am not just speaking for myself when I say porn has really turned me into a “responsible slut” — I used to sleep with lots of people, unprotected, and I really only got tested at my yearly OB-GYN appointments. Porn has made me really aware and really safe when it comes to sex. I couldn’t even fathom fucking anyone outside of the industry without a condom, I don’t care how drunk I am or how horny I am, it’s just something I would never ever do again. My boyfriend (who is in the industry) and I won’t even fuck each other when our tests are expired!

What the media always fails to realize is that all of the HIV breakouts in the industry started from someone who did something unprotected outside of the industry and then worked and brought it in. If more performers were more cautious of what they did outside of work, everyone at work would be safer.

I don’t think condoms should be required, but if a particular performer only wants to work with condoms then that is his or her prerogative.

JEFF MULLEN, AKA WILL RYDER, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, X-PLAY
The media lives on hype and that is exactly what has taken place with regards to the sensational story that is being told recently regardless of how the facts actually fit into the story. I think that the current HIV testing that is in place within our industry is fine and has done an excellent job of keeping this disease at bay. The straight side of the adult movie industry enjoys a truly remarkable run of safety and I would put that record up against any other segment of the population.

Now the gay side of the porn business could be a different story altogether and although I am totally unqualified to talk about that side of the business, it just seems that the mainstream media will do anything to lump us all together into one convenient package and report incorrect facts that shine a damning light on our side of the business.

Condoms, while fine for some, would drive a certain segment of the industry underground, which would not be a positive advancement for the industry as a whole. Safety glasses, dental dams and other pieces of equipment would not be esthetically pleasing for an industry that sells beauty as well as sex. The only area that might be an improvement in safety would be cutting the testing window in half if and only if the medical experts agree that that might halt any potential spread even quicker.

I hear that someone possibly allowed a performer to participate in sex outside of the acceptable testing window, and for that this producer should be publicly hanged live on pay-per-view TV during our “Not the Cosbys XXX” porn party.

KIMBERLY KANE, PERFORMER/DIRECTOR
Well, first I’d like to say that I’m thankful that AIM Healthcare even exists and provides monthly HIV/STD testing for the adult industry performers and the community.

Bottom line is if you use condoms you don’t get sick. That’s the facts. As a performer, if it was condom mandatory I wouldn’t protest. If they made weekly testing mandatory I wouldn’t protest as long as the price of testing was adjusted so people could afford to work in the guaranteed porn decline, which would happen if the biz went condom-only.

As a director, I don’t think condoms are very sexy to look at; they take away from the fantasy and dirtyness, which increases the visual intensity of the scene. But, if I have to use them I would. And I’d have piece of mind knowing that no one would be getting sick or be at risk on my set.

Other than that, I just want everyone to be smart about sex and be healthy. Hopefully they can come up with an AIM 2.0 situation that further protects the adult performer from diseases, because in the end, the performers are the ones taking all the risk.

MICHAEL FATTOROSI, ATTORNEY, FATTOROSI & CHISVIN
I believe AIM and Talent Testing have done a commendable job keeping the industry and its performer’s safe from HIV and AIDS. However, for this industry to be as safe as possible from all sexually transmitted diseases, full panel tests should be required more often. Also, if the tests can be made more affordable, one test one shoot should become the industry standard. Condoms and other safety equipment would not be necessary if that were to happen.

Finally, if more companies were to secure workers comp insurance I believe we would not have the issues with Cal-OSHA that we do now.

MR. MARCUS, PERFORMER
I read a recent article about being an idealist and a realist, which led me to think about the adult business and HIV testing and how the two can co-exist to a point where we can sex each other mindlessly. You can’t have one without the other — testing is necessary — condoms may become very necessary.

As a performer for the past 15 years, I could work with condoms, no problem, but I could work without them just as well. For me, it comes down to do I realistically think I could be Darren James? And from my experience the answer is yes. During that very exploited outbreak in 2004 I felt like I got pulled in the whirlpool with him for a minute. It could happen to anyone in this industry who doesn’t request a test, take responsibility for the sex they're having or shown an interest in the industry they’ve decided to participate in.

Ideally we all would fuck without the concern of catching something, and for some it appears that way, and for those who take a much more valued opinion in what they do with their bodies, we gotta keep testing as frequently as we do for those who don’t test at all

Complain if you want, but I remember when we only tested every three months with a test that wasn’t as accurate as the current test we take now. AIM seems to learn through each calamity, the same way NASA learned through each tragedy. It’s a growing experience that we as an industry go through. Grow with it.

TARA LYNN FOX, PERFORMER
When I first heard that a girl in the biz tested positive I had a million questions going through my head. Who is she? Have I worked with any of the same people? How was she working? How did she get it? My agent and other people told me that it has been taken care of already and that there is nothing to worry about.

I was out of town and actually took a week off from work before I knew this happened. It was kind of nice to be away from Pornoville when it all came out. Well it really knocked me upside the head and made me second-guess my life in porn right now. I am brand new to the biz — February 2009 — and HIV is the one thing that scares me the most. I cried to my best friend back home and said I wanted to quit porn and that I should just go to college. No money is worth my life.

In high school I was a youth advocate for safe sexuality. This last weekend I passed out 1,000 condoms in a gay pride parade and told people they should practice safe sex. However, I’m a hypocrite. I don’t use condoms when I shoot scenes. I do use them off camera though. If I could make the rules, I would make condom usage a necessity.

Do I feel the testing procedures are adequate? Yes and no. Since I was involved in that group in high school I know how the testing and incubation periods work. However, when I am shooting scenes I always prefer the talent to have a 2-14 day current test, which doesn’t always happen. I am not too sure that I would change anything about the testing, except maybe have people get tested a month before they get into the biz and another test before they shoot their first scene. That way if someone comes into the biz with something like HIV it will not come into our community.

TARYN THOMAS, PERFORMER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, TARYN IT UP ENTERTAINMENT
Ifeel that current testing procedures are good, but obviously nothing is foolproof. I would change the current testing from 28 days to 15 days and make it mandatory to have a full panel done every three months, or simply do a full panel every month. Also make anal and oral swabs mandatory when testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

The industry tries very hard to protect its talent, but with carelessness like what is going on now with the current outbreak makes me feel differently. Directors and or companies should not take old tests over standard testing time, which ultimately puts other performers at risk. When an outbreak happens, all names should be released to the the industry.

I would love to use condoms in porn although the viewers don’t want to see condoms. If someone could come up with a flawless way where you don’t see the condoms in the movies then I would be the first to jump on board using condoms in my productions. Until then, my company will require all performers that work for us have a 15 day or newer test.

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