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Spreading the Disease

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Making their point with a five-foot-tall of adult DVDs, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation yesterday held a joint press release and protest as it declared intentions to file complaints with the California office of occupational safety and health (CalOSHA) over the adult film industry’s blacklist over the use of condoms in its productions. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation named numerous porn studios in its complaint, but singled out Larry Flynt Productions for its steadfast refusal to portray the use of condoms – or anything even remotely resembling safe sex, for that matter – in the dozens of adult films it produces each year.

Protesting an unhealthy industrys even unhealthier work habits

Now, it is not often that you’ll find this blog, or National Underwriter covering any aspect of the adult entertainment industry. (Case in point: no way in hell am I linking to Flynt Productions.) But the grim truth is that in an age where sexual health is under constant threat thanks to HIV and AIDS, the use of a condom is the single most effective means of protection, and it is mind-boggling that the industry that could benefit from this the most, is the least likely to use it.

According to people like Flynt, customers do not want to see condoms. The adult film industry is also fond of pointing out that its performers are required by law to submit to HIV testing 30 days before filming, and that the industry itself funds and supports the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM), a nonprofit started in 1998 to provide testing, monitoring and counseling to those who work in adult films.

Now, legal compliance and AIM all sound well and good, but consider this: in 2004, despite screening procedures in place, an HIV scare forced the adult film business to shut down briefly. Never mind that some 22 adult actors have gotten HIV on the job since 2004, and that STD infection is widespread throughout the industry. More recently, ex-actresses vowed to sue AIM itself for breach of medical data. Clearly, this is an organization that even if it had the well-being of its target demographic in mind, isn’t very good at safeguarding it. For the adult industry to point to it as proof that its own practices are copacetic is a bit like a drug pusher pointing out that he donated money to a clean needle outreach program.

Sleaze isnt a crime. But infecting your workers is.

Unfortunately, porn is never going to go away. Not in this country, at least. And as long as it exists, there are going to be desperate, misguided people who will put themselves at risk working in this degrading line of work. Nobody stays in porn forever; they either become so drug-addled and broken they sink even further, or they decide they can no longer live with what they do for a living, and they leave the industry behind, eager to do just about anything else to make a living. What these survivors carry with them, however, is a risk of STD infection some ten times that of regular people. Health insurers, as you well know, do a pretty good job of screening for diseases such as HIV and AIDS because the most primitive underwriting reflex demands it. So perhaps what’s going on in California isn’t a clear and present danger to the health insurance industry. But it’s a bad thing for society at large. Maybe if a prominent health insurance executive or trade group came forth and simply commented on the uninsurability of diseased porn stars, people might think of this whole seamy industry less as a victimless endeavor and more as the ongoing travesty of health and the human condition that it really is.


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