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What You Know About the Porn Moratorium is Wrong

 

By Diane Duke

 

On Friday, one of the testing facilities that serve the adult industry alerted us to a positive HIV test by an adult film performer. While we don't yet know if the performer acquired the virus in his or her personal life, or while working in adult film, we’ve called a moratorium and immediately halted all production. Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of misinformation in the media, and some truly reprehensible behavior on social media over the past few days, and felt it was necessary to explain how a moratorium works, and call for compassion for the positive performer.

 

A moratorium is a preventative measure used to protect adult performers. Over the past year, we've called two other moratoriums when performers who wished to work tested positive for HIV. In each case, the virus was acquired offset and was prevented from entering the performer pool by our testing system (known as PASS). Like a ringing car alarm, a moratorium is a sign of a working system, not a broken one. Adult performers — like all of us — have personal lives. We cannot control, and should not look to control, people's private lives. What we can do is make sure that HIV is stopped at the gate by testing protocols.

 

Once a moratorium is called, all production stops so the genealogy of the virus can be traced. The performer who tested positive is interviewed. All sexual partners — on-screen or off — who fall within the transmission window are contacted and tested. This allows doctors to trace the transmission history of the virus: how it was acquired, if any other performers were exposed, and if there is any further threat to the performer pool. What doctors don’t disclose is the performer’s identity.

 

Sadly, almost immediately after the moratorium was called, members of the media began searching for the positive performer's name, in what can be described as a witch hunt. This weekend, on social media and on blogs, a man was 'outted' as the positive performer. This is disgraceful.

 

First, we don't know if the named performer was the source of the positive test or not. HIPPA regulations rightly prevent the testing clinic from disclosing a patient's identity to anyone, even the Free Speech Coalition, unless the performer allows it. And we shouldn't need to know a name. We only need to know if people are at risk. Everything else about the performer’s health should be between the performer, that performer's partners, and a doctor.

 

HIV is a virus, not a moral issue. Yet both blogs and mainstream media unwittingly rushed to blame the victim. By assuming that adult film work is responsible for the virus, the mainstream media essentially resorts to slut-shaming. On the blogosphere and social media, it can be even worse — unfounded assumptions about escort work, or drug use, or "cross-over" sex (that is, sex with men or transgender performers) are the most common scapegoat. At a time when we most need to support someone in need, we rush to find a villain. I understand that at a difficult time like this, everyone wants to find an explanation. But in doing so, we must respect the performer's privacy, and restrain ourselves from moralizing over a medical issue.

 

Whoever the performer is, we need to be there to support them — not shame or attack them. No matter how the virus was acquired, the performer is one of our own. If the performer does choose to speak publicly, the industry needs to rally behind him or her — perhaps provide interim support or help find work elsewhere in the business. An adult performer who tests positive for HIV faces not only a life-changing diagnosis, but the loss of his or her livelihood. If we truly care about performers, we need to do so not only when they are on a box cover, but also when they are at their most vulnerable.

 

Any positive test rightly spurs discussions as to how to make the industry safer for the performers. (Currently, every fourteen days, a performer must be tested for a full slate of STIs, including HIV, in order to be cleared to work in adult film.)  We can have honest disagreements as to how to best do this. I only ask that these discussions involve the performers themselves, rather than politicians and pundits who sometimes claim to speak for them. We have a vital, intelligent, engaged performer base with strong opinions about their own health and sexuality. We — the media, the industry, the doctors — need to listen to them, and accord them the respect they deserve.

 

Over the next few days, we'll learn more about the current positive test. If the virus was prevented from entering the performer pool, retests will begin and the industry will slowly return to work.

 

I only hope that the discussions that come are substantive, not sanctimonious — and that everyone remembers that we're dealing not with a cautionary tale or a talking point, but a real person who is struggling, and needs our compassion and support now more than ever. Thank you.

 

An FAQ about STIs, Testing and Moratoriums

We've noticed that there is a lot of confusion, both in the media and within the industry about how the decision to call a moratorium is made, how the dates are determined and what protocols are in place to protect adult performers.

HIV is a serious issue, and its important that we deal in facts, not fear or rumor, so we've prepared an FAQ to help people understand the process.

Are Adult Performers Tested for HIV?
Yes. Any performer who wants to work in the adult industry must test clear of STIs, including HIV, within fourteen days of their shoot date. Performers who work regularly generally test every two weeks at PASS-certified testing clinics.

What is the PASS system?
The PASS system is a descendant of AIM (Adult Industry Medical), a healthcare foundation created by a performer with the support of FSC to help protect against STIs. Under the PASS system, producers and directors check to confirm that the performer is cleared to perform in the PASS database within the past fourteen days. If a performer does not have a recent test, or shows any irregularity, he or she will not be cleared to perform.

What happens if a performer tests positive for HIV?
If an active performer tests positive for HIV, a moratorium is immediately called and the industry immediately halts all production.

How are moratoriums called?
The doctor at the PASS facility that conducted the test checks to see if that performer has worked on adult film since 2 weeks prior to his or her last negative test. If he or she has, the doctor alerts the Free Speech Coalition, and the Free Speech Coalition calls an industry-wide moratorium. Production is halted while everyone can be retested to make sure no performers are exposed to the virus.

What happens during a moratorium?
During a moratorium, film production stops while doctors work to determine if any one else was exposed, and to establish a genealogy of the virus.

All performers who have worked with or had sexual contact with the positive performer prior to performer’s last negative HIV test are tested and retested. In some cases, third generation partners may be tested as well. The goal is to immediately figure out if anyone else was exposed to the virus and to stop any potential on-set transmissions.

The HIV Positive performer is interviewed to determine the timeline and 1st generation partners.  If the performer had sexual contact with other performers off-set, the PASS doctors and FSC will work to make sure those people are informed and tested as well as any other individuals with which the performer had sexual contact.

How is the decision made to lift the moratorium?
A moratorium is only lifted after it is clear there is no threat of transmission.

Only after a genealogy of the virus is established, and all sexual partners have been tested, do the FSC and PASS discuss whether it is safe for performers to resume shooting.

If the FSC and PASS determine that it is safe to lift the moratorium, they set a date on which production can resume. All performers must then retest in order to be cleared for work. The retests must happen no less than 14 days after the date the positive performer received his/her positive results or the date of the positive performer’s last sexual encounter with a performer.

The HIV RNA Aptima test used by PASS has a 7-10 day window, meaning that it can identify HIV within 7-10 days of transmission. However, we wait at least 14 days after any possible exposure before lifting the moratorium for added accuracy, and to make sure that nothing was missed.

Why not wait longer?
In some cases, we do. If there are any irregularities, or if we suspect that there may be any extant threat to the performer pool, we hold the moratorium. We only lift the moratorium if there is no medical reason for it to be extended.  We try to balance performer safety with the performer’s desire to work. While most studios stockpile films and can weather a longer moratorium, individual performers often have to contend with a direct loss of income once shooting stops.

How accurate are the tests?
The HIV RNA Aptima test is the most accurate test available. Because of its specificity and sensitivity a false positive (where a performer tests positive for HIV, but does not actually have it) will occur from time to time.  We have never encountered a false negative and understand the incidents of false negatives to be exceedingly rare.

What else do you test for before HIV?
PASS has an extremely rigorous testing protocol designed to reduce the risk of STIs

Performers test every 14 days for:

•    HIV (by “PCR RNA Aptima”)
•    Syphilis (an “RPR” and Trep-Sure test)
•    Hepatitis B & C.
•    Chlamydia (by “ultra-sensitive DNA amplification”)
•    Gonorrhea (by “ultra-sensitive DNA amplification”)
•    Trichomonias

Why not just use condoms?
Unfortunately, condoms aren’t perfect. They break. In the shoots that can take several hours, they can cause abrasions known as “condom rash,” which, paradoxically, can make it easier to transmit an infection if one does break. For this and a host of other reasons, performers generally prefer to rely on the testing system over condoms. You can read more about that here.
 

 

PERFORMER TESTING UPDATE

On Friday, a performer who had worked in the adult industry tested positive for HIV during the mandated fourteen-day industry screening. Since then, there has been a lot of speculation about the performer — including a name — in both social media and on blogs, a fair amount of it unfounded and some of it ugly. The performer deserves privacy and dignity at this difficult time, and we ask that our colleagues and the media respect the performer’s wishes for privacy unless he or she wishes to speak.

Understandably, the larger performer pool is concerned about whether they’ve been affected or exposed. Due to HIPPA regulations, the PASS doctor working with the performer can not discuss any specifics of the performer’s case with the public, or even with us, so be wary of rumors. We can, however, tell you this:

  • All first-generation contacts (people with whom the performer had contact, on-set or off, that could have transmitted the virus, within the window of the last negative test) have been contacted and tested.
  • We should have all results of those tests by early next week. We’ll alert you as we know.
  • The positive performer is working with the testing doctors to determine a timeline and genealogy of the virus, and to determine if the performer pool was exposed.
That said, we want to remind those who would point fingers — either at the performer or his or her work — is that HIV is a virus, not a moral issue. It affects all people, and all populations, and occupations; all of them deserve compassion. Whoever this performer is, he or she is one of our own, and should be treated with the same respect and dignity that we’d want for ourselves in this situation.
 
We will release more information as we are able.
 

 

Industry Calls Production Moratorium After Positive HIV Test

 

 

Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the adult industry trade association, called for a production moratorium today after one of the testing facilities in its PASS testing system reported a positive HIV test for an adult performer.

 

“There was a positive test at one of our testing centers. We are taking every precaution while we do research to determine if there’s been any threat to the performer pool,” said FSC CEO Diane Duke. “We take the health of our performers very seriously and felt that it was better to err on the side of caution while we determine whether anyone else may have been exposed.”

 

The next steps will be to perform additional tests, determine a timeline, and identify any first generation partners.

 

“We want to make sure all performers are protected. The performers’ health and safety is the most important thing,” Duke added.

 

FSC called for all production to halt immediately, until further notice. Updates will be posted to the FSC-PASS website and the FSC blog.

 

Statement Issued By FSC-PASS on Wednesday, November 27

We want to assure you that rumors of an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea in the adult performer population are untrue and unfounded. No such cases exist in the active tested performer population, according to doctors at each of the testing facilities. That said, as always, we encourage people to be vigilant in their personal lives, and to report any concerns to Free Speech Coalition or an affiliated testing facility.  

Also, just a reminder that all testing facilities will be closed on Thursday, November 28, for Thanksgiving. Talent Testing and Cutting Edge Testing will be closed the following Friday and Saturday reopening for regular hours on Monday, December 2nd. STD status will have limited draw stations available on Friday November 29.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.


Sincerely,
PASS and FSC staff members.

 
 
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