Aptima vs. Abbott: Performer Testing Debate Reaches Fever Pitch

Rhett Pardon

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. — The debate over using Abbott or Aptima for HIV performer testing reached a fever pitch this week among stakeholders in the adult film industry.

And over a week's time, the pendulum may have swung for the Aptima test over the Abbott in the minds of many in the biz.

The adult film industry relies heavily on regulating itself, and producers currently accept either the Abbott or Aptima as appropriate documentation that a performer is cleared to perform in a sex scene.

Discussions over which HIV test works best for performers dominated industry chatter this week after Free Speech Coalition Executive Director Diane Duke issued a press release questioning motives behind a private producers meeting at Penthouse's studios in Chatsworth.

The following day, just prior to the producers meeting, Manwin issued a press release announcing it would provide Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Cutting Edge Testing with equipment that performs the Aptima test.

Later that same morning two dozen adult entertainment executives and others, along with three officials from Gen-Probe, makers of the Aptima "machine," gathered at Penthouse in an event coordinated by Love to discuss why the Aptima is the far-superior choice for the porn biz.

The issue of performer testing needs to be addressed, said Love, who maintained that the current procedures in place are not giving stakeholders the best possible options. “My priority is the talent and the safety of the talent before anyone else,” Love said.

The Abbott test — a quantitative test — measures the viral load level of an HIV-infected person. It also does viral load testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C.

The Aptima test, on the other hand, is a "qualitative" one that looks for the HIV virus itself and reveals a prognosis of either infected or not infected.

Dr. Peter Miao, the chief doctor at Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Cutting Edge Testing, insists that the Abbott test, which has been used for years and continues today, is still a good choice.

But Miao admitted that Cutting Edge is "leaning" on using the Aptima machine for an increasing number of performer tests, while continuing to use the Abbott machine, particularly for gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C.

"If  the industry wants Aptima, then that's what we'll be testing with," Miao explained to XBIZ. "But both tests work well" in the testing for possible HIV infection.

Both the Aptima and Abbott tests are "very sensitive and specific ... almost perfect," Miao said.

Meanwhile, another Porn Valley testing center has taken an exclusive stance with the Aptima test. Talent Testing Service performs both tests but only uses Aptima for diagnosing HIV.

"TTS’ concerns with the Abbott methodology is that it is a quantitative tool and is less sensitive at detecting HIV-1 RNA than the qualitative Aptima assay," TTS CEO and President Sixto Pacheco told XBIZ. "Consequently, if the Abbott [test] assay is used as a screening assay to detect HIV-1, this use is considered an 'off label use' as it has not been approved by the FDA to be used for this purpose.

"It is our understanding that the use of a qualitative FDA-approved methodology is more sensitive than a quantitative assay since their intended use is different."

Miao of Cutting Edge Testing noted that many in the adult industry have got it wrong over Abbott testing, and that some are "playing with words," twisting facts whether the assay is FDA approved.

"There are certain people that are saying that it is not FDA-approved, which is not true," Miao said. "The Abbott testing or any of the so-called viral load testing or PCR testing has been approved by the FDA for the past 15-plus years." 

Last month, APHSS  announced that it would accept both brands of HIV tests. APHSS was created to fill the gap left by the closure of the AIM clinic and to carry on health and safety protocols for adult productions. The program and availability index were developed by FSC.

AHPSS said that after considerable research and contact with infectious disease specialists, pathologists and physicians earlier this year, it came to the conclusion to green light both Aptima and Abbott.

“After speaking with a number of medical professionals, it was clear to us that both tests will be a significant improvement over the PCR-DNA [test],” FSC Executive Director Diane Duke said at the time. “Some of the experts prefer the Abbott test and some prefer the Aptima test. All agreed that both tests are effective for our purposes.”