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Case of HIV Sends Panic Through the Porn Industry

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

We have written extensively about potential pitfalls in the modern workplace. My wife and I have experienced them. (See here and here ). You, or someone close to you, probably has, too.

If we think we've got it tough, perhaps we should consider today's porn star. What if we had to step into their, ah, shoes.

At least five major porn studios have shut down after an actor tested positive last week for HIV, according to a report at In These Times . The story has a number of legal angles. And we learn that the people who produce porn have much in common with the people who produce "justice."

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Writes reporter Lindsay Beyerstein:

At this point, no one knows how many people the infected actor may have exposed to HIV, or whether he got infected at work. News of the positive test sparked widespread alarm in the industry because the infected man is reportedly a big star who's dating another big star. Despite its flamboyant public image, the porn industry in Southern California is still a pretty small world. An estimated 1,200-1,500 performers work on-camera.

For those of us wondering when the shelves will contain Debbie Does Dallas Again and Again and Again and . . . well, these could be anxious times. For porn actors, it's an issue with life-and-death implications--and it goes to the heart of the industry's culture. Writes Beyerstein:

A positive test in the industry is especially alarming because the vast majority of straight porn is shot without condoms, despite the fact that California law requires condoms or equivalent protection on porn sets. (By contrast, the gay porn industry is largely condom-compliant.)

The porn profession comes with inherent health risks, and the industry seems to have made a fairly serious effort to address them. The porn industry, however, is dangerously insular--like another profession we write about often here:

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In the latest case of HIV, the actor tested positive through an industry-sanctioned program administered by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation. If you've heard of AIM, you probably know it as the "clinic for porn stars." AIM does provide medical and social services to porn performers, but AIM's true niche in the ecosystem of "Porn Valley" is much more complicated.

AIM is also the STD testing and record-keeping clearinghouse of the San Fernando Valley's multi-billion dollar straight porn industry, according to Dr. Alexandre Padilla, a professor of economics at Metropolitan State College of Denver, who analyzed the structure of AIM in a 2008 working paper.

"With the help of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), the adult film industry developed a corporate culture to facilitate widespread coordination among members and to make the industry similar to a private club," Padilla writes.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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