Almost 30% of gay adult industry performers in the survey were either HIV positive or didn’t know their status. While most were comfortable working with HIV positive performers, many were concerned about the lack of discussion surrounding HIV and STDs on set . Over 80% of performers strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that condom-using studios provided adequate safety measures to protect them from HIV, but little more than half of the respondents felt that the they were being protected adequately from non-HIV risks like hepatitis, HPV or syphilis.
The controversy over bareback porn has raged since the late 90s, with the rise of retroviral therapy and cheap video production equipment fuelled an insurgent condom-less industry. Safety on gay porn sets has received an increased amount of attention after a series of inspections by Cal/OSHA and a Chi Chi LaRue-issued call for consumers to boycott bareback films. Shortly thereafter, bareback porn studio HDK said that it would begin testing models for STDs (in association with AIM, the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation) and pairing the models according to HIV status. While most performers said that they would not perform in a bareback film even with testing, many called for greater communication on every set. Most answered that they “rarely” or “never” discuss HIV status with potential scene partners.
While the survey was anonymous, performers were vocal in response to questions calling HIV and STD discussions with scene partners on sets “awkward… I don’t want to offend anyone” and declaring the lack of discussion “a shame.” Some expressed that they had been told to “keep quiet about it” while others called on studios to help facilitate the discussion as they would “never bring up the subject themselves.” Quest, in a blog posting that followed after receiving the Sword survey, expressed a similar naivetÃ©.
“When I entered the porn business, I didn’t know I should assume my partners could be positive. My only assumption was that I would be told that beforehand either by the studio or the person himself so that I could make an informed decision.” It’s a chorus that we’ve heard before more than a few times, with newly HIV positive performers fearing they’ll be blacklisted if their status is known. For those who are new to the business, or for younger performers who are relatively new to gay sex, the silence around the topic can lead to fear, shame and a lack of safety with other performers in sexual situations off set.
Many performers, of course, are well-versed in safer sex advocacy. “I treat everyone as if they were positive,” said one respondant, who echoed the thoughts of many. Other performers, like Steve Cruz, Diego De La Hoya and Keith Webb have advocated safety both on and off the set. Recent studies by the Gay Times (UK) have determined that up to 40% of men who claim to know their partners HIV status are actually relying on guesswork. Um, yeah, we say. If you can’t trust their Manhunt profile, why the hell would you assume otherwise on set?
Testing, of course, is a contentious issue on porn sets. Many producers feel uncomfortable with privacy issues that come with holding HIV results. Many are unwilling to participate in the discrimination and exclusion that have plagued so many HIV positive gay men. The heterosexual porn industry currently exiles anyone with HIV, but the safer-sex gay porn industry has made an effort to protect everyone no matter what their status.
While performers were critical of the lack of information given to them, a majority of performers still would “never” appear bareback films-even with the type of testing being promoted by HDK. Said one performer, “The window for the AIM test is like 4 days. Who knows what my partner has been up to in those 4 days? We’re all in this industry because we love sex. Who knows what they’re up to after the test gets done?”
The full text of the Sword survey (and results) are here. We’ll be revisiting this issue again with increased attention to methodology. In the meantime, however, we think the numbers warrant some discussion.)
Safe Sex? (SpencerQuest.com)
Steve Cruz’s 5 Tips for Fending Off Barebackers
Chi Chi Attacks Bareback Producers
Bareback Studio To Begin HIV Testing
40% of Gay Men Dumb Enough To Trust Their Sex Partners
Below: "The Long Stroke," the cable news spoof, the candid photos, your new favorite euphemism and the great Christian retreat.
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