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New HIV Cases Spotlight Adult Film Industry's Testing System

Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (left) at a press conference in February to introduce AB 332, a statewide bill to require condom use by adult film performers.

Adult film production in California is now suspended after a number of performers tested positive for HIV. Four cases have been reported in the past few months, including one on Monday.

If ever there was an "I told you so moment" for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, it's now. The organization has been campaigning for condoms to be mandatory during porn shoots. Last year, it sponsored a measure in Los Angeles County to that effect, which voters approved.

"People thought it was a weird, quirky thing, and now I think they see it as a real health issue," says AHF President Michael Weinstein, who's frustrated and says that L.A. County is not enforcing the law.

Weinstein would not reveal any details about the identity of the fourth performer to test positive for HIV, or exactly how or when he got the virus. Adult film production shut down Friday after the third case was reported, and Weinstein says a lot of performers are now speaking out anonymously and online.

"They're scared," Weinstein says. "It's beginning to become clearer and clearer that the producers don't care about them. They thought they were protected, and it's obvious that this system doesn't protect them."

The system Weinstein is referring to is run by the porn industry itself. Performers are tracked and regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases "every 28 days at the very minimum, but most folks test every 14 days," says Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition, which advocates for the adult film industry.

Duke confirms the first new case happened in July, after which filming shut down for six days while performers were retested. She called for a new moratorium on Friday when the third person said they contracted HIV. Duke says this proves the system works.

"Really, it's much safer for you to be a performer performing in our industry than just out in the general public, meeting new people and having sex that way," she says.

Duke says doctors working with the adult film industry are meeting to talk about how long to keep the film moratorium going. And there's debate about whether to make the STD testing even more frequent. But some performers point out that testing doesn't prevent HIV from spreading.

Rod Daily, 32, is one of the porn performers who recently tested positive. He tweeted his announcement about contracting the virus and urged that even more precautions should be taken. It's a message similar to one he gave back in 2009 for a video posted by Next Door Studios.

"Make sure you're definitely wearing condoms, and make sure you're not doing anything unsafe," he says in the video. "You know, try to prolong that life."

A bill requiring condoms on pornography shoots throughout California is now pending in Sacramento.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.

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