Porn Pause: Moratorium on Filming Imposed When Adult Actress Tests Positive for HIV


The debate over condoms, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pornography is flaring up once again in Los Angeles. Just a few days after a judge ruled the city’s on-set condom requirement constitutional, the industry had to deal with the news that one of its actresses tested positive for HIV.

A 28-year-old actress who uses the screen name Cameron Bay went in for her monthly STD screening in August—an industry requirement—and was told that her results were inconclusive. A second test revealed that she was, in fact, HIV-positive. Bay had tested negative on July 27, but that test may have been done during the “window period”— the time between becoming infected with HIV and developing antibodies that can be detected by the test. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people develop antibodies within two to eight weeks of being infected (the average time is 25 days), but it can take longer. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint when Bay was infected and whether she contracted the virus on-set.

A trade organization known as the Free Speech Coalition monitors STDs for the adult-film industry. Per industry policies, the coalition announced a nationwide moratorium on filming, first until Bay’s test results were confirmed and then until her partners could be notified and tested. The news has heated up a contentious battle between industry insiders who claim they are willing and capable of policing themselves and public health advocates who say actors are in danger.

The industry began monitoring STDs in 1998 after several porn actresses sued producers when they became infected with HIV on-set. In response, producers banded together and created the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), which was essentially a nonprofit clinic that offered health tests to performers and kept a record of the results. Producers also agreed not to hire any performer who hadn’t been given a clean bill of health in the last 30 days. The industry also agreed to shut downs while the clinic investigated any positive HIV tests. This happened for a month in 2004, when performers tested positive, and again in 2011, when what turned out to be a false-positive test stopped production for a few days. In 2010, the City of Los Angeles shut down the clinic for not being properly licensed, and the Free Speech Coalition took over the job of monitoring STD test results (the agency provided actors with a list of participating clinics where they could get tested).

Industry insiders believe this system is working and point out that since 2004 only six performers have contracted HIV. Public health advocates, however, argue that the job remains too risky and note that other STDs run rampant among actors. According to the Los Angeles Department of Health, about 25 percent of performers are diagnosed with an STD each year, and rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are seven times higher among porn actors than in the general population.

A number of organizations led by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation took matters into their own hands over the last few years and managed to get a measure put on the ballot in Los Angeles County that would require actors in all permitted adult films to wear condoms. The Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, known as Measure B, was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters last year despite threats from producers that they would simply take their operations—and tax dollars—elsewhere.

Though it passed last November, the measure was not instantly implemented as the county struggled with how to enforce it. Then, in January, two production companies (Vivid Entertainment and Califa Production) and two porn actors (Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce) sued the county to prevent the law from taking effect. County officials declined to defend the law in court, but the AIDS Healthcare Foundation was granted “intervener” status and stepped in to defend Measure B. On August 16, a federal judge ruled that the law was constitutional and could be implemented. U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson said the new law seeks to alleviate those harmed in a direct and material way. Vivid Entertainment says it will appeal the decision.

The production company may find that supporters are harder to come by now, as fewer than ten days after the decision was handed down HIV rocked the industry again and the cameras stopped rolling. In the meantime, Cameron Bay has had to cope with a life-changing diagnosis and a lot of publicity. She told her fans on Twitter, “I’m still coming to terms with all this but thanks to everyone showing love I feel stronger than ever.”

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Follow Martha Kempner on twitter: @MarthaKempner