MY THOUGHTS ON THE RECENT HIV OUTBREAK IN THE PORN INDUSTRY
I know many of you were looking for part 3 in my Porn Star series, but given the recent issues in the industry, I think this week it makes more sense for me to address it and weigh in on it all.
To recap, there have been four performers in the industry who recently tested positive for HIV. Rod Daily, his girlfriend Cameron Bay and Patrick Stone have all come forward publicly with their diagnoses. A fourth has chosen to remain anonymous, but recently participated in a news conference last Wednesday, via phone. According to Stone, his test may be a false positive, and he is waiting to confirm his status. The fourth performer stated during the conference that he had tested negative and was cleared to perform in scenes just two weeks prior to his now positive diagnosis.
So here’s the deal. HIV is obviously a risk when working in the porn industry. The question becomes what to do about it, and how to protect the performers. I’m going to talk specifically about the gay porn world, as it has a different “set of rules” than the straight world, with the majority of the gay studios requiring condom use. I’m also eliminating bareback studios from my discussion, as they as well have established their own requirements as to what performers they use and the risks involved.
TRUTH #1 ONLY A HANDFUL OF STUDIOS ACTUALLY REQUIRE PERFORMERS TO TEST FOR STI’S OR HIV.
With all the focus on these four performers and their recent infections, most folks don’t realize that the MAJORITY of performers work for studios that use condoms, and because they film safer sex, don’t require testing. The only reason we have heard about the recent performer infections is because they all worked with studios that required testing. I have worked with 4 studios total during my year and a half career, and one of the four required me to test and submit results for approval before filming. Now don’t get me wrong, the other three studios have very specific policies set forth stating that if a performer would like their scene partner to be tested prior to filming all you have to do is request it. This allows the performer to set the level of risk he is willing to accept, and act accordingly. During my 20+ scenes and estimated 30 scene partners, the majority have been with a testing studio, but I never have requested tests from my other scene partners. I did my research, decided what would work best for me, and did what I was comfortable with. I own my level of responsibility and the risks I am willing to take.
TRUTH #2 THERE ARE MANY PERFORMERS IN THE GAY PORN INDUSTRY THAT ARE HIV POSITIVE.
If you read the recent interview on manhattandigest.com with me and my poz/undetectable partner, Scotty Rage, you know that I am a very HIV neutral person in my daily life. That being said, I was never concerned about working with HIV positive performers. I always walk into every scene ASSUMING everyone is HIV positive, and only do what I’m comfortable with. Given that I have a high risk of infection with my career, I have also gotten on TRUVADA as a PrEP program. Don’t know what that is? You should! Google it and learn about another level of protection you can offer yourself if you are HIV negative. I’m not here to out performers are positive, as to me it’s a non-issue, but I will say that I know for a fact that at least 4 of the guys I’ve had sex with were all HIV positive. I know because they all disclosed it to me during conversation (not through second hand knowledge) and I wouldn’t be shocked if there are more as well. Let’s be realistic and blunt here for a second… in “real life” there are HIV positive people in every social situation or friend group in which you participate, the adult industry is no different. Unfortunately, within the industry and today’s society, someone’s public disclosure of their HIV status can be a career killer, as the general public doesn’t want to know about the performers “dirty little secret.”
TRUTH #3 IF YOU WORK IN PORN, YOU WILL PROBABLY BE EXPOSED TO STI’S AND HIV NO MATTER HOW OFTEN PERFORMERS TEST.
It is a well-known fact that HIV antibody tests have a “window” of about 2 months prior to the test date in which someone can seroconvert to positive, but still show up with a negative test. It all depends on how quickly your body produces the antibodies that react to the viral protein. Therefore, someone can claim to be negative, and actually have the active virus in their system. This is how you can have a performer test negative one time and then a couple weeks later test positive. The infection could have occurred during the two week window, or it could have occurred earlier, but no antibodies had been produced in the body before the first test. I have always said when I disclose me status that I “tested negative as of [insert date],” rather than claiming HIV negative status. You really can’t guarantee that you are negative if you are sexually active within a few months prior or after your test. Again, this is why all performers should decide what they are willing to do and what level of risk they are willing to assume, and stick to it! Another reality: porn performers have sex with other people outside of filming. Thus we can all be exposed to things that we bring back to set. Given that a multitude of performers also escort, their level of exposure grows with every additional time they have sex. Something else to think about: Just because a performer uses condoms on set, doesn’t mean they do in their personal life… Just like the fact that “regular folks” who claim to only perform “safer sex” don’t always do it.
TRUTH #4 THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND CONSUMERS DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT HIV AND THEIR FAVORITE PERFORMERS.
Porn is a fantasy. Scenes are put together and edited to provide a seamless experience for the consumer and the hottest visuals possible. Ever noticed the “magic pants” (when a performer pulls his pants down for oral or rimming and then magically they disappear… there’s just no sexy way to take off pants over boots or sneakers!)? Consumers don’t want to think about STI’s and HIV and dirty bottoms and the non-sexy things that can be associated with sex. Buyers pay for a FANTASY, not a reality. So performers being too open about their real lives lose a bit of their Idol or Star status and more often than not end up disappearing. Just like no one wants to know about their famous mainstream movie stars using the bathroom or popping pimples, no one wants to hear the day-to-day drama that porn stars also face, sometimes as a result of their involvement in the industry.
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? WHO NEEDS TO BE RESPONSIBLE?
The answer? I have no exact idea. All I can do is speak to how I handle it and how I set myself up to be comfortable with what I do. I DO NOT TRUST ANYONE ELSE TO PROTECT ME. Performers that count on scene partner testing to protect them are living in the same fantasy world as every day folks that believe it when someone claims to be negative in a bar or online.
I test regularly no matter if I’m working with a studio that requires it or not. I got on meds to limit my risk. I educated myself as to what HIV positive means, what undetectable means, how STI’s and HIV can be passed on and how they are treated. I determined the specific risks I am comfortable with on set, and a specific level of risk I am comfortable with in my personal life, and I stick to that. BASICALLY, I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT MYSELF.