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Former porn star Darren James speaks out about latest HIV case

Darrenjames
The former adult film actor at the center of a 2004 HIV outbreak among porn performers on Tuesday criticized the industry for failing to protect actors from infection.

“I knew it was going to happen. And how many years has it been? Again. They went right back to the same habits,” Darren James said in an interview with The Times.

James’ comments came after a San Fernando Valley clinic that caters to people who work in the porn industry confirmed to The Times that an adult-industry performer has tested positive for HIV, and that a quarantine was in place for performers who had sexual contact with the person.

Officials from the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, known as AIM, would not disclose the number of performers who may have been exposed and also declined to provide details about the person infected or the production company or companies involved.

James, a well-liked porn star known for his courteous nature on set, was at the center of an HIV outbreak that shut down the San Fernando Valley’s multibillion-dollar porn industry for a month in the spring of 2004. He had tested HIV negative just days before performing on screen. After a later test came back positive, James learned that he had spread the virus to three actresses with whom he worked. 

In recent months, James has become a advocate of mandatory use of condoms on porn sets to protect performers from HIV. At a hearing of California occupational safety officials in Orange County in March, James called the industry’s reliance on testing performers for HIV  a "false security blanket."

"You think you're safe, but you're not. In between scenes, you don't know what other actors are doing," James told the board before turning to the crowd of about 40 at Costa Mesa City Hall. "I'm living your nightmare every day," he said.

On Tuesday , James renewed his criticism of the industry for failing to protect actors and actresses.

“The actors ... they’re not getting the protection that they need. There should have been mandatory condoms,” James said. “Good grief, it’s like my deal, all over again. I hate that.”

In an interview with The Times last year, when AIM officials confirmed that a female porn performer had tested positive for HIV, James talked extensively about his belief that condoms should be required on set.

"That's why I want to come out and do a little more, if I can. And if it's just to help ... just to get them to listen. Not to boast up porn, not at all, just to make people be aware that I got caught up, man. I thought I was invincible, and I got shot down so fast,” James said at the time.

Some porn actors and actresses, however, have protested state officials’ consideration of strengthening rules requiring condom use on sets. Despite state occupational safety rules requiring condom use on porn sets, that rule is widely flouted on heterosexual porn film shoots.

"There is no way to make the industry risk-free. Making things safer does not make it safe," a porn actor whose stage name is Jeremy Steele said at a June hearing in downtown Los Angeles. "If you're worried or paranoid, you should not be in this industry."

"As someone who is still working on the camera myself, I don't feel any safer with condoms," actress Nina Hartley said at the same hearing.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Read more: Wicked Pictures and Vivid Entertainment suspend production as a precaution amid new HIV case in porn performer

Photo: Darren James vividly remembers the 2004 phone call that changed his life. He hopes that by getting his story out, the porn industry will be moved to require condom use to protect the health of its stars. Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times

 
Comments () | Archives (39)

Referring to Porn actors as "Stars" is a bit absurd. Even calling them "Actors" is a bit of a stretch. How about calling them Professional Sex Trade Workers? That seems more realistic and honest to me.

"I don't feel any safer with condoms"
"Making things safer does not make it safe"
I agree - I'm taking out my car's seat belt tonight - I'm not safe so why be safer?
Hmm maybe they should give IQ tests when they are giving the STD test?

I'm supposed to feel sorry for these fornicators why?

When it comes to the way AIDS is spread, engaging in sex in the porn film industry is consensual. While Darren James' story is very sad, his choice to focus on making the porn industry safer is misguided. Enforcing condom use in the porn film industry is as effective as a water gun in a four alarm fire. Anyone who enters the porn trade knows the risks, or soon finds out. It's not just careless sex, it's drugs, abuse, exploitation, etc. This trade is NOT legitimized by people referring to its participants as actors and actresses, or performers.

It's a sad thing to read about, but the truth of the matter is that this person was an adult fully aware of what could go wrong performing without a condom & they got infected.It's hard for me to show sympathy for someone who knew about the consequences & yet still took the risk anyway.

My hart goes out to all of you. Stay strong.

There are consequences to immorality.

the industry does not want to scare future porn stars from coming out and try out for porn. the reality is that 1 infected person is too many. their lives are changed foreever... so what is the big deal of filming with condoms??????? we all use them.. its not like we meet a female and she says its ok to not use a condom....life is short and these infections should not be happening... and these guys flying to foreing countries to film with females that have no regard for their well being or are able to use condoms.......

And I thought I'd seen it all. Sad that anyone gets news like that, but huh? The industry is to blame? Sounds more like "the cost of doing business" to me. What's next? A work comp case?

Why are people surprised when announcements such as these are made? Have we become so ignorant as a society that such announcements are considered news? The consequences of negligence and irresponsibilty seem to be glorified instead of condemned. Mr James sudden wakening of conscious lies short of any dignified value. He can point the finger of responsibility until his last breath is taken, still not realizing that the responsibility lies within his choices to live with ignorance and negligence as a guide. HIV and AIDS have been around for more than two decades. If people still can deny its real existence, then the porn industry should make it mandatory to be HIV positive in order to participate and spare us from having to consider this "news". Its truly amazing that we (the human race) have even survived as long as we have living so irresponsibly. This may sound cliche, but WAKE UP PEOPLE! And if nobody told you before, then let me...alcohol abuse leads to alcoholism, drug abuse leads to drug addiction, cigarette smoking is bad for your health and mine, and engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners that do the same thing leads to contracting diseases and death. Stop sueing the bus that hit you when you did not bother to look both ways before crossing the freeway.

To the person with the seatbelt comment, your logic is correct. However, how can we expect this level of wisdom from someone who participates in the sex trade as a worker. HIV/AIDS is real. A person can die because of a disease spread by sexual contact, with or without a condom, and yet this risk is not widely considered a reason for abstinence and fidelity.
So the next argument is that the porn industry should be watching out for the participants since they do not value their own lives enough to leave it behind. This argument is almost laughable. That is akin to saying that slave traders should be trusted to provide good health care for slaves before they are sold. The porn industry makes money exploiting people, both the "actors" and the customers. Humans will always look for ways to exploit others, so the wisest thing we can do is accept that fact and shut down industries like the slave trade and porn industry when we realize they are exploitative.

"Making things safer does not make it safe." "If you are paranoid you should not be in this business." What an ignorant thing to say, so because your a porn actor or actress you should be exposed to HIV just so you can make a quick buck.

"I don't feel any safer with a condom." That is the most idiotic thing I have ever read. A condom has a 98% prevention rate.

this is extremely sad. its a woman that got it this time yet all other news stories are not saying. then mr james infected 3 women in 04 when he was tested ? how does he feel knowing he destroyed the lives of these women and their families, kids or chances of ever having a normal life ? was he gay or a drug user ? why are they having men who are gay or play in gay movies having scenes with women ? again, perfect example to CLOSE this down !

@ Randy...you forgot car exhaust and factory fumes that add to the destruction of the air :)

Nobody deserves to contract HIV. It is sad. It is such a risky business though in more than one way. I do not believe that the rules will change significantly-If the rules change for Cali then filming will move to Arizona or Washington. Rules can be avoided and/or broken. I wish all concerned my best. Including Mr. James.

You can't name me any other industry where people know they will be working around transmittably dangerous substances where they aren't required to wear protective clothing. Not in an infectious disease research lab, around nuclear radiation, asbestos removal, or for goodness sakes even a bee keeper has sense enough to know that you need protection!!!!!

Yes, a condom may be 98% safe, but you can't afford to be .01% wrong with something like HIV. That's like saying that I'm going to remove a hornet's nest in my backyard with a protective suit that "only" has a "tiny" hole. There's no logic to that whatsoever. And for people to not see through the hypocrisy and exploitation of this industry is beyond moronic. You know that any of these adult performers could be carrying any type of harmful disease easily tramsitted via bodily fluids (hpv, herpes, gonorhea, hiv, warts, etc). Yet, it's consider "mandatory" to end adult scenes with a man ejaculating in a woman's mouth.

That's breaking all types of health regulations in the US. But because the porn industry has soo much money to influence capitol hill, people turn their heads away from the obvious.

the porn performers reasoning was dumb. they should definately increase safety.

FYI: Porn Performers are NOT ACTORS or STARS. They are performers. You don't call a clown, or somone performing on Venice Blvd "actors" or "stars".

"I'm supposed to feel sorry for these fornicators why?"
________

Who says you're "supposed" to feel sorry?

Personally, I feel sorry for everyone who works a demeaning job (and most demeaning jobs obviously have nothing to do with sex work). I feel sorry for anyone who can't find love. I feel sorry for anyone who goes through personal tragedy even when it is self-inflicted. I feel sorry for people who are vocal about their self-righteousness, because that normally indicates dissatisfaction with their lives.

But that's just me: I feel sorry for a lot of people. I'm pretty sure no one has told you to feel sorry for pornographers. Clearly (clearly) this news story didn't tell you do feel sorry for them.

"How about calling them Professional Sex Trade Workers? That seems more realistic and honest to me."

"It's a sad thing to read about, but the truth of the matter is that this person was an adult fully aware of what could go wrong performing without a condom & they got infected.It's hard for me to show sympathy for someone who knew about the consequences & yet still took the risk anyway."

"There are consequences to immorality."

The statements above and others like them are spot on. Too many folks today lack the mental maturity to accept resonsibility for their own actions and be honest with themselves [first], and then everyone else.
From start to finish this life is nothing more than a series of choices, decisions, trade-offs, and gambles. You have complete control over every single one. You can always say "no". Thats where wisdom comes in...making wise decisions and taking wise gambles.
When you gamble [take a risk] its always wise to think ahead...what will it cost me to lose?
You sold yourself into porn for fast money, fame, and a lifestyle of sexual pleasure and adoration. Generally speaking, the bigger the gamble, the bigger the risk. It isnt someone else's fault [industry]. You made the decision...probably jumped at it, and probably enjoyed every second...until the invoice arrived....
You gambled and lost. Thats how it works.

These workers do make their own choices and should be aware of the risks... however, it is Federal law according to OSHA, for employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees. This includes bloodborne pathogen transmission prevention. These performers should be held to the same standards of healthcare workers, and be required to use Universal precautions. Just because a majority of people believe porn is immoral and that the performers know the risk involved, the industry is ultimately reasonible for bloodborne pathogen transmission on the job. Sorry, folks, but these porn stars ARE entitled to workers comp if they are infected on the job.

Saying the Porn Industry should not have to do everything possible to prevent the transmission of HIV among porn performers is ludacris. Testing is obviously not enough. Im an RN, and I guess since I know the risks, I shouldnt have to use gloves when dealing with bodily fluids if I dont want to. Sure, its way easier to start and IV without gloves on, but would I do it? HELL NO. HIV is preventable.

I call for lawmakers accross the country to make condoms mandatory for all Porn Industries. AIDS is a deadly disease and we as a human race need to do everything possible to stop the spread, no promote the spread! My heart goes out to all invovled. Please protect yourself people....

Maybe they need to look at the Nevada brothel industry for guidance they have a plethera of safeguards in place protecting the performers from these instances and to this day it has kept a clean bill of health with zero outbreaks of hiv not to mention it is legalized taxed and regulated keeping it in the hands of tax paying citizens and out of the hands of corrupt unethical controllers just a thought maybe Im a dreamer but who knows what one day we can provide for sex worlers across the world if we bring it to the forefront as a legitimate taxable industry then we can solve this problem of reckless performers doing what they will with no repercussions

Porn stars wearing condoms is like boxers dressed in bomb blast suits, get real. I wouldn't buy porn if they wore condoms. Sorry, I'm paying you to take risks I'm unwilling to take myself and live vicariously through your recklessness. If not HIV, then you know very well you're going to get HPV and HSV I/II on top of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. If I wanted to see condoms, I'd go to Reno and have sex with a prostitute while wearing one. My fantasy isn't to have sex with dirty women while wearing protection, I'm not going to pay for reality. They play with matches, they get burned, that's how life works.

Would you feel safe having sex with an infected person even though they are wearing a condom?

Im one of the fortuate ones to have made it out of the biz. and i thank God everyday. Its so not worth it.But when ur working ur thinking of topping your competition geting the box covers your web site being famous getting rich not catching aids. its all about the money the industry doest care theyll find someone to take your place if u get sick. cut throat biz. i love my life now my kids know i was in porn and friends i give it no glory i was a whore a drug addict i now have self respect and it comes from Jesus and his blood. I hope the biz gets shut down it would force the actors to do something else there not bad just lost souls.

The main reasons condoms fail is improper use. If any one knows how to use them properly, it is professional sex trade workers.

If the sex industry were decriminalized (including prostitution, exotic dancing, pornography, and any other commercial activity involving sexual activity), occupational safety and health regulations could improve the safety of the workplace not only in terms of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, but other sources of harm to the workers.

I agree completely with Darren James, and have taken that position since the early 1980s when HIV first appeared, that the sex industry should be confined to only safer sex practices.

The pornography industry could do a lot to promote condom use, and how to make condom use erotic. This would not only improve the safety of sex workers, it might convince men to stop insisting on unsafe sex with women or with other men.

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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