by Third Axis op/ed
I’ve been closely following the press — and the ongoing responses to it — surrounding the recent HIV incident, and have myself posted on a couple of forums regarding my thoughts and opinions on the matter. I feel that I do have some particular insight, insofar as I’ve worked in this industry since the late ’90s and saw firsthand the impacts that previous health incidents have had on performers, production people, and others associated with our business.
The recent episode is no different, except for the fact that this time only one currently confirmed HIV victim is directly involved as an actual performer, despite the numbers being incorrectly used to generalize that one (heterosexual) individual among a larger group of HIV-positive gay performers and other non-performers who have been detected through AIM, and identified as such. This incident has been the source of much heated opinion, speculation, and outright disinformation from not only mainstream journalists and anti-porn/pro-regulation pundits, but also from within our own adult community. Much of this opinion and “information” has been shockingly lacking in factual basis and often poorly informed, whether well-intentioned or not, and it surprises me that so many know so little about the workings of our industry yet insist on making sweeping generalizations about it. But that’s the thing about Americans; we’re a very opinionated people, and we never let a little thing like the truth get in the way.
One thing relating to the recent incident strikes me in particular. That is the hue and cry from those within and without the adult industry for some form of governmental control or oversight regarding HIV and general STI testing, as well as the legally mandated use of barrier protection (which can include condoms, dental dams, latex gloves, etc.) during sexual activity performed for commercial purposes. I won’t go into the pros and cons of the latter, as there are simply too many facets to the issue to sum it up briefly. I’ll just state here that I do support the use of barrier protection (condoms only), on a case-by-case basis, with respect to the individual choice of performers, but also with equal respect to the artistic/visual direction of the work in question. What I DO NOT support is any legal requirement that would remove or hinder in any way the exercising of that free choice.
The same applies to the issue of current industry HIV/STI testing, which, given the overwhelmingly positive track record of detection, verification/notification, quarantining, and the education provided over much of the past decade, has served our industry quite well. We can thank the continued work of AIM for this, wherever your personal opinion of their system, protocols, or public relations stands. I welcome anyone to cite verifiable information or statistics that would show any other clinical system in the U.S. to have an equal or better record than AIM within the particular requirements of the adult industry. In fact, virtually any major public hospital in this country has been directly accountable for fatalities and severe medical complications related to outright negligence, lapses in established protocols, failures in accurate record keeping, etc. In comparison, although these diagnostic/treatment systems are of far different scale and scope, AIM’s record of accuracy and prompt response to medical alerts places them in favorably high order.
To AIM’s detractors, I would say that you are not only ill-informed but plainly ignorant to suggest that its protocols or response system are “broken” and need to be cast aside in favor of some other, wholly unproven regimen. In this country, we live under a free-enterprise system where fair competition is unrestrained to challenge the status quo. If there is a better system than that which is offered by AIM, then let it prove itself over an equally long term. To claim, as some have, that AIM holds any kind of unfair monopoly on industry testing, or has made some secret deal with mysterious forces within the power matrix of the porn world is ridiculous and has yet to be supported with any facts. No other private foundation or company has made a qualified attempt to provide an acceptable alternative, either, so I say put up or shut up.
Those points aside, I also challenge those who would welcome legal control or oversight from any state or county (or even federal) health authority, to show me where such governmental control has actually improved any area upon which it has been imposed. Look at our nationwide healthcare system; it’s in shambles. Closer to home, take a look at California, and Los Angeles County in particular. Statewide and locally, has bureaucracy done a favorable job on our public hospitals, clinics, and medical-insurance systems? The answer is a resounding “NO!” Do you seriously believe that yet one more branch of a blatantly ineffective bureaucracy could possibly improve a system that already has a statistically high record of success, such as that of AIM? Please, then, give us all the facts so that we may make an informed choice.
Has the USDA or FDA kept our food or other products totally safe? Have the tobacco companies been regulated well enough to keep them from giving smokers, and even non-smokers, cancer and other life-threatening diseases over the last half-century? Has the pharmaceutical industry received close enough oversight to halt it from poisoning, killing, and debilitating generations of Americans. Has OSHA kept any workplace 100-percent safe from injury or death, or the long-term effects of exposure to harmful substances? Government can only do so much, and invariably it does so with criminal waste, incompetency, and obstruction of the truth. I shudder to think what it would do to the adult industry if given the opportunity to put even one foot toward imposing its regulatory agenda.
To all of you who invite Big Brother with welcoming arms — I say, be careful of what you wish for.