HIV scare calls halt to porn shoots

HIV scare calls halt to porn shoots, by Caitlin Liu, Monte Morin and Kristina Sauerwein in Los Angeles - 17th April 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Several adult movie companies - including the industry's largest, Vivid - said they would stop filming after two stars tested positive for HIV.

The shutdown followed an urgent plea by health advocates to halt unprotected sex in the porn industry. The positive tests have sparked a mix of anxiety and indifference at porn movie sets, talent agencies and testing clinics.

Vivid and other companies announced that they would stop filming in hopes of heading off an outbreak of HIV in the multibillion-dollar business.

Production would stop until people who had acted with porn star Darren James and actress partner Lara Roxx could be tested, company officials said.

James, the first porn actor to test positive for the virus since 1999, had a "stellar record" of tests - negative every three weeks for the past seven years, said Elizabeth Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare (AIM) Foundation.

Dr Mitchell said James may have contracted the virus about four weeks ago while filming in Brazil on a "non-condom" set.

The Los Angeles-based industry, which normally shoots three to four films a day, must now wait 60 days to learn whether the deadly virus spread to 14 actresses who had on-screen sex with James, or to the 35 sex partners the women subsequently had.

The call for a halt to filming of sex scenes without a condom was made by AIM, which listed on its website about three dozen actors who may have been exposed to the virus recently, and urged them to get tested.

Sinamotion Pictures, along with a few others, allow actors to use condoms during filming, although filmmakers say their use "kills the fantasy" and performers are often paid more to perform without them.

On Thursday, porn stars streaming in and out of the foundation's office to get tested for HIV said they felt unnerved.

Some pored over a flier handed out by AIM that named those who had sex with James since his last clean test, and those who had sex with James's sex partners, looking for people they know.

"I haven't worked with any of them, thank God no," said one actor after reviewing the list.

Summer Tyme, 25, said she had worked in the industry only two months, and that the news had rattled her. "I'm going to change the way I do things now - probably just girl-on-girl shoots. Guys, but with condoms. No money is worth risking your life."

James, friends said, was stricken by the news. "He's resting and lying low. He's very sad," Dr Mitchell said.

Roxx was a relative newcomer to the industry, health advocates said, and appears to have performed with only two or three actors before being tested positive on Thursday.

She had not worked for the last few days because she felt ill, probably a consequence of the onset of the viral infection, AIM said.

Several producers said they were stopping production. One of them is Jill Kelly Productions, a Hollywood company that makes four to eight movies a month.

"We're not shooting until June 8," said owner Jill Kelly. "The most important thing is safety. Safety comes before money."

Despite the HIV scare, Ms Kelly said, porn workers were still sexually healthier than non-porn people who are promiscuous.

"People are aware about their health in this industry," she said. "People are safer [in porn] than going out to a bar and having a one-night stand."

Los Angeles Times, Reuters



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