CANOGA PARK, Calif. — Adult performers should have the freedom to choose talent testing facilities.
That was the mantra at the latest meeting over adult performer STI testing, and it also was the popular vote at the Thursday night meeting attended by 75 performers, talent agents, producers and directors at LFP's studio in Canoga Park, Calif.
The meeting, organized by Adult Talent Managers owner Shy Love on behalf of LATATA, the organization that counts five top adult talent agencies, became an educational experience for many on the valley of differences between the Abbott and Aptima tests, the two used in the adult entertainment to spot HIV infection.
But the underlying theme of the evening was to focus on what if the adult entertainment industry were to face another HIV scare, particularly with the AIM Healthcare Clinic now gone and the Free Speech Coalition's APHSS as AIM's subsitute just revving up.
"We dont want to be in the position again where the industry is serviced by only one testing facility," said Derek Hay, owner of LA Direct Models, a LATATA member.
"We feel if one testing facility gains a monopoly and the other is forced out, that hurts all of you and puts you in a vulnerable position."
Currently, adult performers have only several options for testing — Cutting Edge Testing, Advanced Medical Testing Center and Talent Testing Service (TTS).
Both Love and Hay told the standing-room-only crowd that multiple testing facilities are necessary so there's a back up in case one facility goes down.
"Even though we compete in adult industry business we can agree about a lot of things, and testing is one of things that we have a like-minded thought about and the reason we called the meeting tonight," Hay said.
"What this really comes down to is choice — your choice where you get tested, who provided you with service with testing, how you receive those results and who those results are provided."
Hay reminded the crowd about the AIM Healthcare, "which was pretty much the only place to get tested" for quite some time.
But when TTS entered the scene in 2007, Hay said that AIM resisted the competition and that he complied with AIM founder Sharon Mitchell's wishes to stick with AIM.
"At the time it was a good thing to do, but now I feel differently," Hay said. "When it went out of biz, our only place to go was TTS. Boy, we were glad that they were there."
Then, in January, Cutting Edge Testing came on to the scene, Hay said, pronouncing that the clinic had a new type of test unlike PCR-DNA tests, previously used by AIM. It was called the Abbott test.
Until last month,Cutting Edge Testing relied solely on the Abbott test, a quantitative test, which measures the viral load level of an HIV-infected person.
But after studying the Abbott study for about six months, the Abbott test has been misapplied for HIV diagnosis and has created risk for adult performers, as well as the entire indusry as a whole, Hay and Love said.
"The Abbott test is not supposed to be used for the diagnostic purpose," Hay said. "The diagnostic test is to determine if someone has HIV or not.
"If you do compare the two tests it is a no brainer," he said. "The Aptima test, which is supposed to be used to determine whether a patient has HIV, which is FDA approved, which the Abbott test is not, would be the one which we would choose."
Love agreed with Hay, saying there are uses for the Abbott, which also tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C.
"The Abbott test is an amazing test. I'm not going to say anything negative about it," Love said. "But the Abbott is for someone who has HIV, where doctors are giving you medication and they want to see if your viral load is really low.
"But if you are a performer you don't want that chance," she said. "You dont know if someone's viral load is going up and down. The Aptima test eliminates this process where we dont have to worry about someone taking medication or someone with a very low viral load and beating the system. Those chances are slim to none."
Love said there's a genuine reason why she sides for the best testing option for performers she represents — "the health of my talent means a lot to me."
Love said she was involved in the Darren James HIV situation in 2004 as a second-generation subject, and became a worried wreck for a number of days before she was found HIV-negative. James tested positive, as well as three performers he worked with, after possibly infected after having anal sex in Brazil.
"I was at the forefront to see if I was HIV positive not like everybody else who stands in the background making decisions on your behalf," she said.
"If it wasnt for the agents in this room you would be still using the Abbott test," she said. "We have paperwork that it says it is the gold standard, and weve confirmed it is not the best for you."
Thursday evening's presentation included discussion by representatives of Gen-Probe, makers of the test officially known as the Aptima HIV-1 RNA Qualitative Assay.
Two of the four reps on hand made a PowerPoint presentation about the Aptima, a "qualitative" test that looks for the HIV virus itself and reveals a prognosis of either infected or not infected, is FDA-approved for early diagnosis of HIV infection.
Also on hand was TTS owner Sixto Pacheco, who discussed his facilities services in Los Angeles and Miami, as well as the recent deal with APHSS that will allow TTS data into the APHSS database.
The evening had several boisterous and heated moments between Cutting Edge Testing's Bobbi and Love, including one moment when Love responded with threats of a possible defamation claim. Several times during the meeting, Bobbi jumped in on the discussion holding that the Abbott test is FDA approved for HIV testing, contrary to discussion, and that testing facilities should only operate with at least one doctor on hand.
In the end, Love asked attendees to vote on whether performers should have the freedom of choice when it comes to talent testing facilities. The show of hands was unanimous; all were in favor of it.