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Public health advocates are again raising issue with the adult film industry after two male actors were found to have contracted HIV, most likely after a film shoot in Nevada that took place in September 2014.
After the 2012 Measure B passed in Los Angeles County that requires actors to wear condoms while filming, the industry plummeted. As a close neighbor that doesn’t have such a law in place, Nevada became a likely candidate for the adult film industry to relocate.
But incidents like the one in September question the film industry’s standards of testing for sexually transmitted infections, even though officials from the Free Speech Coalition say the shoot in question did not adhere to the normal protocol. Normal protocol refers to the PASS system, in which producers and directors check to confirm an actor is clear to perform based on results of his or her set of sexually transmitted infection test results. The tests are usually performed every 14 days.
“This set was not a PASS-compliance set,” said Diane Duke, CEO, Free Speech Coalition. “They used paper tests that are not in the database, so we can’t ensure those tests were actually accurate.”
Duke went on to say that the danger in a condom mandate is that studios that are filming in other areas won’t follow the same protocols, putting the actors at more of a risk.
Adam Cohen, a public health consultant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, says that the PASS standard is not as comprehensive as it’s advertised.
“Chlamydia and gonorrhea must be tested by specific anatomical site in order to additionally detect rectal and oral infections,” he said. “Many of the testing done under the PASS system are results based solely on urine testing.”
The Free Speech Coalition, however, maintains that condoms don’t necessarily keep the actors any more safe than the PASS testing standards do. They also say it should be the actor’s choice on whether or not to wear a condom, not mandated by a law.
“Condoms are not made for adult film use,” said Lorelei Lee, an adult film director and performer. “Often, condoms will break, or in females cause micro abrasions, which can actually make you more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections.”
Former adult film performer Aurora Snow supports the condom mandate, and said that during her decade-long career in the industry, the majority of it was done without condoms.
“They are in fact not a choice for most performers,” Snow said. “Had I chosen to use condoms, I would have worked less frequently, and not had the successful career that I had.”
Snow recalled a time where someone she had previously worked with was diagnosed with HIV, and remembered the feelings she had when she found out.
“I was shocked,” Snow said. “It could have just as easily been me in that scene. It was really frightening.”
Nonetheless, Lee said that condoms should be a choice for the performers, not a mandate.
“After the passage of Measure B, it became very clear that condom mandates don’t work,” Lee said. “Our health and safety protocols have had issues in the past … issues that have been resolved, and there hasn’t been an onset transmission of HIV from PASS compliant sets in over 10 years.”
A federal court ruled last year that requiring actors to wear condoms in Los Angeles does not violate the industry’s right to free speech, after an adult film company appealed the mandate.
Aurora Snow, former adult film performer, writer
Lorelei Lee, adult film performer and director, member of Adult Performer Advocacy Committee
Adam Cohen, public health consultant, AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Diane Duke, CEO, Free Speech Coalition