In previous employment—before I could serve food on a military base and practice massage therapy—I had to be tested for all communicable diseases. But to be an adult performer, it wasn't required that I be tested for these same diseases. Porn only tests for certain diseases; this had me concerned to say the least. I tried to reach out to Sharon Mitchell, owner of Adult Industry Medical (AIM), when I started filming, in order to talk about implementing better testing and education for performers in the adult industry, but to no avail. Shortly thereafter, AIM closed its doors.
Performers were then told that Talent Testing Services (TTS) would be our new testing facility. We also had the addition of Cutting Edge Testing (CET) as a secondary testing facility. The problem with both testing centers is that they didn't test for syphilis or hepatitis. When I expressed my concerns, I was told that if I was so worried about it I should hire a doctor myself. You can see from that comment alone how the industry really feels about performers. Porn should not be able to govern and regulate itself at the expense of performers' health.
As it turns out, syphilis was added to the panel of tests. But only after a syphilis outbreak in the industry during which one of the adult industry's testing facilities was implicated for fixing results when a male performer showed a questionable test on set. (The facility has denied the accusations, and the male performer was actually praised by some—and he's still in the industry.)
Until very recently there had been no mention of adding hepatitis to the basic panel test for performers. What happened to change the dialogue? In what I suspect is a publicity stunt orchestrated by Rob Black (a media personality in the adult biz and host of The Rob Black Show on radio), pornstar Lisa Ann accused Alex Gonz of having hepatitis C. She posted on Twitter that she cancelled a scene with him because he was positive for the hep C virus. The fact is that this alleged case of hepatitis C hasn't been confirmed, and when I personally asked Lisa Ann to back up the allegations, she did not reply.
Despite the lack of evidence, the adult industry got itself into a tizzy and decided that new testing regulations needed to be put in place immediately. As of August 19 of this year, the basic panel test for adult performers now includes hepatitis C and B and trichomoniasis, in addition to the previously required tests for HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.
This new regulation, coupled with the fact that a federal judge has deemed mandatory condom use in the adult industry, makes you think it's safe, right? Wrong! We also need vaccinations and a few other things.
To get my point across, here are some facts about the various types of hepatitis as they pertain to the adult industry. After all, in order to prevent the spread of a disease, one must understand the epidemiology of a disease.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a bloodborne pathogen only transmitted through the exchange of blood. It is possible to get HCV through rough sex if there is blood exchange. In the industry's case, this mostly happens when the male adult performer injects his dick with Caverject (and erectile dysfunction med) and then has rough sex with his costar, tearing her or him in the process. People not familiar with how the industry works may not see the need for HCV testing, but believe me when I say it is necessary. There is no vaccine for HCV.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is also a bloodborne pathogen, but it can also be spread through other bodily fluids like semen, saliva and secretions. I don't think I need to tell you why this test is necessary in porn. There is a vaccine for HBV.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) only occurs among people who are infected with hepatitis B. HDV is transmitted through the skin or mucosal contact with infectious blood and can be acquired either as a coinfection or super-infection in people with hep B. There is no vaccine for HDV, but if you are vaccinated for hep B and are not already infected, it can be prevented. If we are testing for B, wouldn't it just make sense to test for D too-or better yet vaccinate and test?
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is spread mostly by the fecal-oral route, by either person-to-person contact or consuming contaminated food or water. There is a vaccine for HAV, but the adult industry doesn't vaccinate or test for HAV even though performers are in a high-risk group for this disease because of large number of ass-to-mouth (ATM) scenes.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is not very common in America because it spreads by the ingestion of fecal matter usually from contaminated water in poor countries. There is no vaccination for HEV available. Once again, because of the popularity of ATM scenes in porn, the adult industry should be testing for HEV.
The porn industry is patting itself on the back for a job well done. However, I am left wondering why they are celebrating the fact that they are testing for only hep B and C but not requiring mandatory vaccinations before filming. I guess some things are just beyond my comprehension.
Mandatory vaccinations would eliminate three of the five hepatitis diseases for those not already infected. Proper testing coupled with condom use would help prevent the spread of all five hepatitis diseases. However, the adult industry doesn't want to be told they have to vaccinate. They think it's their right to put themselves, their costars and whomever they go home to at night at risk!
I find it odd that the porn industry is so upset with the recent decision to make condom use mandatory that it plans to appeal it. Yet, on the grounds of Lisa Ann's allegations, it now demands regular testing of hep B and C-but no vaccinations.
Why are Adult Production Health & Safety Services (APHSS) and Diane Duke of the Free Speech Coalition (the FSC, a trade association of the adult industry) so all over the place when it comes to safety of performers? Why doesn't the industry vaccinate for HBV, HAV and human papillomavirus (HPV)? Why doesn't it test for all communicable diseases, and why not institute universal precautions (the basic practices that help you avoid contact with bodily fluids)?
Pornstars are responsible for paying for their own testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Yet they are neither taught basic universal precautions nor told the risks involved with their job. They are not informed about vaccinations for HPV and hepatitis A and B and that they should have them before filming.
Up until recently, I was the only person I ever heard even dare to mention better testing and education for the performers. Pornstars take all the risk, and yet it's the agents who have a union (LATATA) to protect their best interests. Everyone in the industry says that "you know the risks when you get into porn." How are young women and men supposed to know the risks if nobody tells them? After all, we only learn what we are taught, so how can we do better until we learn better?
Education about bloodborne pathogens, universal precautions, and hepatitis A and B vaccinations should be required to work in the adult industry.
Kora Peters is an adult film actress and a health activist. To follow her on Twitter, click here.