Whore Next Door: Hold Up

What happens with an adult-film performer tests positive for HIV.

(Photograph by Isabel Dresler/Isabeldresler.com)

“I’ll be nearby your house shopping with Wallet this evening,” she said. “I’d like to come over for a drive-by fuck around 8.”

This is the text I received from my girlfriend last Saturday evening. She was on a shopping date with her financial slave, Wallet, and though I had told the blonde bombshell that I needed to focus on my heartbreaking stack of 1099s that night, she had made me an offer I could not refuse. She’s dominatrixing her way through medical school, and I’m trying to save porn and decriminalize sex work. It’s hard to squeeze in time for intimacy when you’re constantly trying to conquer the world. So, sometimes, impromptu drive-by sex is what it takes to stave off lesbian bed death.

As I started to tidy up a bit and make sure any sexy accoutrements she might require were at the ready, I got another phone call, this time from my boss, Eric.

Last year, I took a position with the Free Speech Coalition — the national trade association of the adult-film industry. The organization does political advocacy, community outreach, and education, but it also maintains the Performer Availability Screening Service (PASS), a crucial tool for adult-film production as it allows performers to choose comprehensive STI testing as a protection method, while maintaining their medical privacy.

Medical records are maintained with the clinics that administer the tests, and all that shows up on the PASS system is a green check or a red “X.” While a red “X” means the performer is unavailable to work, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have contracted an STI. It could mean that their test has expired, as the results are only valid for 14 days. For example, since I don’t have any shoots coming up in the near future, I am currently listed as unavailable until I go in to retest.

Along with medical professionals and performers, a comprehensive protocol has been developed to halt production — should a performer test positive for HIV — to ensure no one else is exposed. Eric was calling to tell me such an occurrence had happened.

I sat down and took a deep breath.

It was apparent almost immediately that the transmission had not occurred on a set, but rather in the performer’s personal life. The likelihood of this individual having transmitted the virus to any of their scene partners was also unlikely, as the performer had not shot any content involving fluid exchange in several weeks. Still, it was determined we should call a production hold until we could retest everyone and be sure.

It was my job to send an email to essentially the entire adult-film industry the Saturday night before Easter to tell them the news of the diagnosis and the hold.

When my poor girlfriend arrived, dressed to the nines in her full Jayne Mansfield dominatrix garb, she found me in pajamas, anxiously huddled over my laptop, perfecting the final draft of the email that would affect so many lives in my community. This was sure to start a hurricane of controversy.

Without so much as a pout, she ordered Thai delivery and quietly rubbed my back until I was able to press “send” without having a panic attack.

Though I didn’t know the identity of the performer, I knew that someone in my community had just received a life-changing diagnosis. While HIV is not the death sentence it was in the 1980s and ’90s, this world is not a kind place to HIV-positive sex workers, largely due to the stigma and criminalized status of HIV individuals, combined with the incredible financial burden of treatment.

In the following days, any performers who had come into contact with the HIV-positive performer  were retested. While it was confirmed that the performer who had initially tested positive was, in fact, now living with HIV, everyone else who had come into contact with the performer in question tested negative.

Thankfully, there had been no risk to the performer pool at large. And the HIV-positive performer reached out for support and resources, which we were swiftly able to provide.

Performers’ lives don’t stop when they walk off set. We have a testing system and protocols in place so people know their status, as well as their scene partners’ status, before they shoot.

While deeply unfortunate for the performer in question, and inconvenient and scary for folks who had shoots booked in the days following Easter, production holds are a sign that the system that has been developed by and and for adult-industry performers is working.

View Comments