Friday, April 16, 2004

Gina Keating
Reuters News Agency/AP

p. A14.

Actor tests HIV positive, porn filming suspended

LOS ANGELES — California's multibillion-dollar adult pornographic film industry ground to a virtual halt yesterday after a popular actor tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

Industry advocates immediately called for a 60-day moratorium on filming so that others could be tested after actor Darren James tested positive for HIV on Wednesday in routine screening conducted by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation.

Physician Elizabeth Mitchell said the industry's 1,200 regular actors must show negative tests to keep working in the industry, adding that only about 17 per cent of performers use condoms.

Mr. James, the first porn actor to test positive for the virus since 1999, had a "stellar record" of tests — negative every three weeks for the past seven years, Dr. Mitchell said.

She said the actor may have contracted the virus about four weeks ago while filming in Brazil on a "non-condom" set.

The Los-Angeles-based industry, which normally films three to four films a day, must now wait 60 days to learn whether the deadly virus spread to 14 actresses who had onscreen sex with Mr. James, or to the 35 sex partners the women subsequently had.

The at-risk actors have been quarantined until June 8, and Dr. Mitchell has advocated a moratorium on shooting until the extent of the infection is known.

Jonathan Fielding, director of public health and health officer for Los Angeles County, told The Associated Press that the agency does not consider the HIV case a threat to public health "at this point."

However, the discovery shows that screening programs are not perfect and the only way to prevent AIDS "is not to have unprotected sex," he said.

Former porn actress Jill Kelly, founder of Jill Kelly Productions Holding, Inc., said she and most other film producers have halted production for the next two months.

Her company's postponement of eight films "won't do much damage" and can be quickly remedied by doubling the six-day-a-month shooting schedule, Ms. Kelly said. She noted, however, that actors who live "cheque to cheque" may have trouble making ends meet during the moratorium.

"Most of the people I have talked to are co-operating," she added. "There are a few people that won't. But if I find out there is talent working, I won't ever hire them again."

Ms. Kelly said she was quarantined in 1999 after working with actor Tony Montana, who subsequently tested positive for HIV and infected several co-stars.

"I was clean [but] it's scary," she said.

Director Corey Jordan, who used Mr. James in his Baby Got Back series, called the actor's diagnosis "a shock," but predicted that the industry will rebound.

"In the porn community itself, HIV is pretty much taken care of in the sense that we make sure everyone is tested," he said. "Right now, it's not about money, it's about people's well-being."

Mary Carey, an adult movie star who ran for governor of California last fall, said she had not worked with the HIV-infected actor or his co-stars. However, as a precaution she was cancelling a lesbian porn shoot even though she did not consider it risky. "It's very scary," she told AP. "This is kind of a wakeup call for everybody."

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Created: April 25, 2004
Last modified: April 25, 2004
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