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No additional HIV cases detected in porn performers

November 5, 2010 |  3:17 pm

Officials at the San Fernando Valley clinic where a porn performer tested HIV-positive last month announced Friday that two rounds of tests showed no other adult film performers connected with the individual had contracted the virus.

The performer tested HIV-positive Oct. 9 at the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, or AIM, in Sherman Oaks. The clinic routinely tests performers working in the San Fernando Valley's lucrative adult film industry for sexually transmitted diseases and maintains a database of their results for porn producers.

Once the new HIV case was detected, clinic officials created a quarantine list of performers to test who had worked with the porn performer, referred to in Friday's news release as "Patient Zeta."

Clinic officials released a statement Friday saying they had completed testing of two generations of the patient’s partners, "from both personal and professional life," and all tested HIV negative "on two occasions, using multiple testing methods."

"It has been established that Patient Zeta acquired the virus through private, personal activity and there was no transmission of the HIV virus from Patient Zeta to anyone else," according to the release by an attorney for the clinic.

Dr. Jonathan E Fielding, Los Angeles County’s public health director, said AIM officials had not provided his office with any of the test results or protocols. Without that information, he said it was impossible to determine whether all of those exposed to Patient Zeta had been tested or whether the disease was contracted from someone outside the industry.

"We’ve always asked AIM to share the information with us to ensure that all the individuals who should be tested are tested, and we don’t have that information," Fielding said.

He challenged clinic officials' assertion that the test results prove the efficacy of their system, calling such infections "a workplace hazard" that should be regulated by state workplace safety officials.

"If, in fact, they have used the right tests and done everything they say they have done, it's good news for the people who were contacts, but it doesn't reduce the risks," he said. "To have somebody work in a situation where they are forced to do things that put others at risk for life-threatening diseases is very disturbing."

The AIM clinic has drawn criticism from AIDS activists and state officials who say clinic officials have failed to promptly report HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. In 2004, a male porn star, Darren James, contracted HIV and spread the virus to three female performers before it was detected. The outbreak shut down porn production for a month. Last year, a female performer who rarely worked tested HIV-positive but no other cases were detected among performers.

In recent weeks, state workplace safety officials have been considering whether to mandate condom use and additional testing for porn performers.

In Friday's statement, AIM officials said the most recent testing "affirms the efficacy of AIM Healthcare Foundation's testing protocols, as voluntarily implemented by the adult entertainment industry," adding that "It is regrettable but inevitable that people continue to acquire the HIV virus in their personal life."

Clinic officials would not say how many people had been exposed or tested, according to their Santa Monica-based lawyer, Jeffrey J. Douglas. They reported the case to Los Angeles County public health officials late last month, but have not released Patient Zeta's name, gender, or other information. The public health department has refused to release any information about the case, citing medical confidentiality.

Several large porn production companies suspended production in the wake of Patient Zeta's initial HIV test, but on Friday at least one was poised to resume filming.

Vivid Entertainment co-founder Steven Hirsch announced plans Friday to start filming Monday. The company had suspended new productions Oct 12.

Hirsch said he spoke with AIM officials, who reassured him that testing had been thorough. He said they told him they could not discuss how many people had been exposed or tested due to confidentiality.

"We have no reason not to trust the process," Hirsch said. "It's been shown that it works in the past and it worked again now. AIM acted properly, they notified us immediately and kept in contact with us throughout the process. We are comfortable with the testing procedures that are in place."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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