Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Response to the "Porn Spreads HIV" Meme (From Nina Hartley)

In anticipation of one of the classical memes that will be unleashed by antiporn activists that porn spreads diseases, I now give you this press statement from April of 2004 from legendary porn actress/sex-positive educator Nina Hartley and her present husband/director Ernest Greene (nee Ira S. Levine), acting in their capacities as members of the Board of Directors of the AIM Health Care Foundation.

The background for that statement was the revelation in April of 2004 that at least two performers came in contact with the HIV virus while performing sex scenes in a video. Ultimately, two performers, Lara Roxx and Darrin James, were confirmed to have gotten infected with the HIV virus, and only five performers were verified to have been in harm's way, but were cleared. The ensuing public uproar, however, induced public hearings in the California Assembly and proposals for stricter health regulations and mandatory use of condoms and dental dams for all porn shoots; if not outright censorship of the industry itself. The statement by Hartley and Greene is a direct reflection of those times.

It was originally posted both at Nina's website and at her forum; but I have archived it at my personal collection of essays. My thanks to Nina and Ernest for granting me permission to repost this here.


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Apr 17, 2004 HIV crisis:

By now, visitors to the site are probably aware that two confirmed
cases of HIV have surfaced within the adult-video performer
community. The names of the individuals who have confirmed positive
tests have been made public elsewhere, but because we are members of
the board of directors of A.I.M. Healthcare Foundation, we are not at
liberty to identify them specifically or comment on the details of
their cases. One is a well-known male performer with substantial
experience in the industry. The other is a female performer new to
video. As of this writing, there are 25 performers (including one
another), known to have worked directly with the two HIV-positive
players since they lasted tested negative for HIV at the A.I.M.
clinic.

At present, there are 17 identified second-generation contacts,
meaning individuals who have worked with performers who had worked
with one or the other or both of the two confirmed cases subsequent
to the infected parties' last negative tests.

As a result, A.I.M has begun an exhaustive re-testing of all the
first, second and third generation contacts as they are identified
and strongly recommends that all hard-core production in the industry
be suspended for the 60 days necessary to complete two full testing
cycles for all those involved to insure the continued safety of the
talent pool.

We are all gratified by the high degree of cooperation and compliance
we have enjoyed from both performers and producers. Unlike two
previous instances of HIV infection within the industry, we have
observed a broadly responsible and temperate reaction within the
adult industry. Most major production companies have announced 60-day
production moratoriums, many smaller companies already have or soon
will commit to the suspensio n and efforts are being organized within
the industry, most notably by Jenna Jameson, who deserves special
thanks, to help provide temporary employment and support to ease the
hardships of those who will lose work and income during this period.
Many performers and behind-the-camera personnel live paycheck to
paycheck in porn and are to be both assisted and commended for their
willingness to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term good.

With many of the specifics of this situation already available to the
public by way of avn.com and other sources, we feel the most useful
thing we can do at this point is to provide some context in which to
assess the impact of this highly unfortunate situation and to put it
in a larger perspective.

Porn is not now and will never be a risk-free occupation. Very few
trades come without occupational hazards. By comparison, the risks in
porn are relatively predictable and manageable, but are far from
inconsequential and can never be fully eliminated.

This stark fact was brought home to the industry some seven years
ago, when an active male performer contracted HIV, concealed this
fact and went on to infect 6 other performers. At that time, with
much discussion, new industry standards were established for HIV
testing to prevent the repetition of this incident, the full
implications of which were clear enough to the wiser heads in the
community. Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation was created,
largely through the dauntless efforts of Dr. Sharon Mitchell, to make
available to all performers the state-of-the-art PCR/DNA test that
detects the presence of H.I.V. earlier and more accurately than any
other method currently available.

Over the succeeding years, A.I.M. has administered literally
thousands of tests to adult performers, who have gone on to engage in
tens of thousands of on-came ra sex acts without a single instance of
HIV transmission as a result. This is one of the rare and great
public health success stories in the tragic history of the HIV
epidemic. Credit for this remarkable record goes not only to A.I.M.,
but to the performers, who have observed the 30-day testing protocol
religiously, and to the producers, who have rigorously insisted on
test documentation before allowing performers to work. As a model of
community-based, self-policing HIV-prevention efforts, the adult
industry overall has proved exemplary.

It is worth noting that, as a result of the testing and reporting
protocols observed in porn, porn performers enjoy a lower rate of HIV
infection than almost any comparable demographic of sexually active
young people in the society at large. HIV incidence is far higher
among college students than among porn performers. Thanks to A.I.M.
and the PCR/DNA test, the HIV infection rate in p orn has sat at zero
for seven years.

Nonetheless, no system is or can be 100% effective forever. The
PCR/DNA test is highly sensitive and will detect very low levels of
HIV in the bloodstream very quickly after infection, but every human
immune system is different and even the most accurate test can err
under certain circumstances, as appears to have happened in this
instance. The first performer identified as infected tested negative
on March 17, 2004. In between that date and his next test 20 days
later, he converted from negative to positive. In between, we know he
worked with at least 13 other players, with the extremely unfortunate
results still unfolding. The exact circumstances under which he
contracted the virus are not known and speculation on this point is
both unfounded and unconstructive. That the player in question was
known to have worked in Brazil, where HIV is prevalent, during
his "window period" be tween tests may or may not have been
significant. We may never know how he got it.

What we do know is that, under the testing regime now in place, his
case was caught very early, and while this is cold comfort to the
other performers who worked with him and/or the female performer who
has also tested positive, had the testing protocols not been in
place, the outcome would almost certainly have been far, far worse.

Prior to the founding of A.I.M. and the institution of the PCR/DNA
test as the industry standard, informal testing practices in a
haphazard, patch-work manner, had provided little actual protection
to the health of the performing community. The standard test used at
that time (when it was used at all) was the ELISA test, which detects
the presence of HIV antibodies in the bloodstream. It is certainly a
reliable test AFTER the immune system has begun producing HIV
antibodies. However, as we all now know, HIV can be present and
highly contagious in the bloodstream before the body's defenses have
mobilized to combat the infection, thus producing detectable
antibodies. The process by which HIV antibodies are produced, known
as sero-conversion, can take anywhere from 30 to 120 days to reach
the ELISA test's threshold of detection.

Given that active performers work a great deal with a large number of
partners over a short period of time, as the current situation again
demonstrates, the possibility that a performer could carry the virus
in an infectious state for as long as six months, undetected by the
ELISA test, was rightly judged to be catastrophic in implication. Had
the old standards been in place in the present instance, we might not
have known about the two confirmed cases until sometime in June, by
which date their primary contacts might well have numbered in the
dozens.

As it is, we have been able to contain the new outbreak very rapidly
within a small group of performers. That is the most important thing
to remember about the admittedly regrettable situation as it now
exists. It's bad, but it could have been much, much worse.

In the coming days, there will be much discussion, both within and
without the industry, about what has happened, what may happen and
what should be done. An all-industry meeting has been scheduled next
week to share information and give all views an airing. We hope and
believe that a consensus will emerge in support of the current
testing methodology and A.I.M.'s stewardship of the industry's STD
prevention efforts. A.I.M. is not a perfect institution and all our
best efforts can never guarantee total success in precluding similar
misfortunes in the future. There is, however, no better alternative
on the horizon. Should A.I.M. be removed from its role, the likely
replacement would be a government-impose d regulation scheme, enforced
by public health officials with no understanding of, or sympathy for,
the special requirements of the adult entertainment community. What
we have now is a community-based model that works. It has worked for
a number of years and is working now to limit the fallout from this
limited outbreak.

Given the unlikelihood of compliance with any attempt to impose
mandatory condom use or other precautions mandated by any outside
agency, misguided attempts to "solve" the STD problem in porn would
almost certainly result in a collapse of the precautionary routine
now in place and an atmosphere of dangerous anarchy, in which high-
risk behavior would be driven underground, irresponsible conduct
would eventually produce a true disaster and draconian governmental
intervention would be the most probable scenario.

What we have now is an effective system that can and should be
preserved with the help o f all right-minded individuals, within and
without the community of adult performers and producers.

Those wishing to contribute to A.I.M. in order that we can continue
our vital work can make tax-deductible contributions to:

[Address deleted out of redundancy]

Thank you all for your expressions of concern and support.

Nina Hartley
Member
A.I.M Healthcare Foundation board of directors


Ernest Greene
Chairman
A.I.M. Healthcare Foundation board of directors


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Nina would later go on to testify in front of the California Assembly on hearings on the proposed tougher regulations, which were essentially defeated and didn't make it past the committees.


Anthony

3 comments:

  1. Sex positivity may or may not include enjoyment of porn, though its generally correlated with a non-judgmental attitude toward people who do.

    Yes, that's well put. Unfortunately, when you are talking about extremely vigilant "anti's," they are basically in the "fer us or agin' us" mode.

    which effectively ends up putting a lot of on-the-fence people in the "well all righty then, I guess I'm agin', then. YAYPORN!...except for i rarely if ever watch it and am still concerned about certain industry standards and..."

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  2. ...or, put it this way: I'm very leery in general of the whole, "I'm okay, you're perverted, they're just sick" mentality, and it's really hard to avoid that, it seems to me, if one takes the position that "loving consensual sex is good, gentleloving 'erotica' is good although we can't really pin down for sure where to draw that line, ditto this or that or the other kind of thing, BUT...'porn is harmful.'"

    which, well, then, o.k., but what do you even -mean- by "porn," and how do you know you aren't being influenced by your own sexual preferences/turnoffs at least as much as genuine concern for what you see as bad media influence? (putting aside the concern about exploited performers and such).

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  3. whoops, i meant to put these in response to iacb's post, above. but yeah, thanks for reposting the Hartley piece.

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