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Derrick Burts, HIV-positive porn actor: 'How many more times does this have to happen?'

December 8, 2010 |  2:14 pm

Zeta

Derrick Burts, the adult film performer who tested HIV-positive at a San Fernando Valley clinic this fall, said Wednesday that he thought he would be protected from infection because he used condoms on gay porn sets and was tested before working in straight productions.

Burts, 24, had worked as a “crossover” star in gay and straight films for several months before learning in October that he was HIV-positive. He had last tested negative Sept. 3.

VIDEO: Watch Burts' interview with The Times

He spoke for the first time about his diagnosis Tuesday in an interview with The Times. On Wednesday, he took questions from more than two dozen journalists at a news conference held at the Hollywood headquarters of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

"How many more times does this have to happen before something is done about it?” said Burts, who had been known only as "Patient Zeta" before coming forward to tell his story.

Burts, at times having to pause to gather his emotions, recounted his testing and post-treatment at the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in Sherman Oaks, known as AIM, which caters to the San Fernando Valley-based porn industry.

He disputed statements made last month by  clinic officials that he had contracted the virus in his personal sex life.

He said clinic staff told him he had contracted the disease from a fellow performer who was HIV-positive, described to him as a “known positive.” Burts said he asked them if the “known positive” was a male performer he had worked with on a gay film shoot in Florida, but they told him they could not disclose the performer’s name or gender due to patient confidentiality.

Burts said he suspected he may have contracted HIV at that shoot because although he used a condom, he removed it during some oral sex scenes. He said clinic staff also told him that another male crossover performer had tested HIV positive, unrelated to his case, and also declined to identify that performer.

Clinic officials have not responded to The Times' requests for comment.

Producers of straight porn regularly check performers' test results using a database maintained by the clinic, known as AIM, to clear actors for work.

Although straight porn performers must show negative HIV test results before filming, the gay porn industry does not have the same restrictions. HIV-positive performers may continue working, although condom use is typically required.

Burts, who performed in straight films as "Cameron Reid" and gay films as "Derek Chambers," said his agent urged him to pursue gay porn because it paid better. He said he performed in about five gay film shoots. He said he instructed his agent that he would never work with a performer who was HIV-positive and would always use condoms during intercourse in gay productions, something he said he reiterated on set.

He said some of the larger gay porn producers required testing, and the Florida-based agent who represented him for gay porn required him to use condoms. He said condoms were readily available on set.

“Getting into gay porn, I knew there was a higher risk of getting HIV. So I always made sure I used a condom,” Burts said.

He said did not use condoms on straight porn shoots, but he was tested for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases monthly at AIM.

“Going into this industry, I thought I was getting tested every month, I’m safe,” he said. “It’s not guaranteed that I got it from a gay shoot. To blame it all on the gay side would be wrong. The fact is I tested positive. AIM claims testing protects you. That’s not true.”

Burts and AIDS Healthcare Foundation officials, who have been frequent critics of AIM, said both gay and straight porn producers should require testing and condom use. Burts turned to AIDS Healthcare after he said he was disappointed in his medical treatment at the AIM clinic.

“We’re not saying with universal condom use, the risk is eliminated. We’re saying you can eliminate a significant amount of the risk,” said Michael Weinstein, the group’s president, adding that if a performer is HIV positive, “the person they’re performing with has a right to know.”

He said the group was not calling for porn performers to use condoms during oral sex scenes.

After Burts tested positive, he said he supplied AIM staff with the names of about a dozen performers with whom he had worked, including some well-known stars, who were placed on a quarantine list while they were tested.

Clinic officials have since said that none of the performers on the quarantine list tested positive.

Burts had advertised as an escort but said he never worked as one. He also told The Times that after his diagnosis made news, someone posing as him posted false accounts of his behavior on an online message board.

During the time he worked in the porn industry, Burts said he only had sex outside of work with his girlfriend, a fellow porn performer who has tested negative.

RELATED:

HIV-positive porn actor was told: 'You're not going to make any money if you wear a condom'

Porn performer who tested positives speaks for the first time

Porn actor with HIV didn't infect any other adult performer, clinic says

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Hollywood

Photo: Derrick Burts, 24, said he tested HIV-positive in October at the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in Sherman Oaks after working in both gay and straight porn films for a few months. He had previously been identified only as Patient Zeta. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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