Porn News

Jessica Drake: never worked without a condom

Porn Valley- The US’ multibillion-dollar pornographic film industry virtually shut itself down this week after producers learned that at least two actors had been infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Most of the major companies in the adult-movie industry, which turns out about 4,000 videos a year, agreed to halt filming for 60 days so that any of the performers who worked with the infected actors could be tested and re-tested for exposure to the virus, HIV.

Darren James, the first of two performers known to have been infected, may have contracted the virus while shooting a film in Brazil, friends and associates said, and passed it on to at least one of the 12 actresses he worked with in Los Angeles after his return.

“That was kind of a downer,” said Jill Kelly, a producer whose production house normally turns out eight films a month. “People think this is something that happens all the time in this industry, but it really doesn’t.”

James appears to have infected a Canadian actress who is new to the business and goes by the stage name Lara Roxx, industry leaders said. About 65 performers have been identified as having had sex with one of the two actors or with someone else who did. All are being tested.

On Friday, another actress who worked with James was discovered to have such low antibody counts that it was feared that she too might have contracted HIV, Kelly said.

The last recorded HIV infections in the pornography business here were in 1999.

“It hurts everyone’s pocket, but we’re talking about people’s lives,” Kelly said of the shutdown, which was initiated by the industry.

Leaders of the industry said the moratorium indicated the seriousness with which they handled health issues.

About 1,200 performers in the adult film industry are monitored once a month for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Most tests are done at the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation’s offices in the San Fernando Valley, where the adult-movie industry is centered, and performers must present evidence of test results to producers before filming.

“They realize this is an occupational hazard,” said Sharon Mitchell, a former actress who earned a master’s degree in public health and a PhD in human sexuality before co-founding the medical foundation here. Although some production companies require actors to use condoms, she said, most do not.

“Films are picked up for distribution faster if the actors are not wearing condoms, and the talent earn more money for not wearing condoms,” Mitchell said. The speed with which the infections were found illustrates “the system did exactly what it’s supposed to do,” she said.

Although the San Fernando Valley pornography industry is believed to generate up to US$9 billion a year, most of its productions are turned out by just a few dozen companies and producers. In that relatively insular environment, there are not many degrees of separation between most actors.

Jessica Drake, an actress in her mid-20s, said that in her four years in the business she had never worked with a male partner who was not wearing a condom. She said she was tested for sexually transmitted diseases every month.

“We have a horrible situation on our hands right now,” Drake said on Friday. “Because of the testing we have right now, I feel it’s as close to being contained as possible, but on the off-chance that it isn’t, we don’t want to put anyone else at risk.”

Drake, who began her career as a stripper while attending college, said the pornography business suffered from misconceptions.

“Contrary to what people outside the industry might think,” she said, “we really do watch out for one another.”

A friend of James who went to his home on Thursday found the actor’s wallet, mobile phone and car but no sign of him, said Jim South, an agent who has guided the careers of actors and models in the business for 31 years.

“No one’s seen him since Monday. We can’t find him. We are all very, very concerned about this,” he said.

Skeeter Kerkove, a producer of porn films who has worked with James, said the actor’s infection was “just catastrophic” and called him “a total gentleman.”


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