I’ve discussed the porn industry before, but this recent news story is not a continuation of the critique of the industry–it’s a reminder as to why HIV/AIDS still matters.
On Monday, the adult film industry called for a moratorium on production after it was revealed that an actress who performs under pseudonym Cameron Bay had tested positive for HIV. Mark Schechter, owner of Adult Talent Managers L.A., which represents Bay, told The Times that she went in for her regular screening for sexually transmitted diseases last Monday and that the results came back inconclusive. She had a second test Tuesday with a new blood sample. Preliminary results came back Wednesday as potentially positive for HIV. Although her previous test results were negative, she had performed in shoots since.
Bay released the following statement: “As difficult as this news is for me today, I am hopeful that no other performers have been affected. I plan on doing everything possible to assist the medical professionals and my fellow performers. Following that, my long-term plan is to take care of myself and my health.”
The news of Bay’s diagnosis has added to the debate surrounding a California law requiring porn actors to wear condoms. Many in the industry feel that the law is pointless as porn stars are required to undergo routine testing and report their results, but many public health organizations feel it’s a matter of health and safety. While I think it’s unfortunate that Bay contracted the virus, it is good that this story is making rounds on the news as a large portion of the general public has seemed to have almost forgotten about AIDS.
While there are plenty of messages out there encouraging safe sex, AIDS awareness seems to be nowhere near as high as it was in the nineties. It’s almost as if cancer has become the “trendy” disease, and AIDS has gone quietly in the background as treatments have vastly improved over the past thirty years. But we still need to talk about it, and not just on World AIDS Day. The statistics regarding HIV/AIDS is staggering:
- There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
- It is estimated that one-fifth of those people don’t know they have it.
- Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV and more than 600,000 have died of AIDS.
- An estimated 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the U.S. each year.
- Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for the majority of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses although MSM comprise only around 2% of the U.S. male population. In 2007, a third of these MSM were younger than 30 years old.
- New HIV diagnoses among MSM were more than 44 times higher than among other men and more than 40 times higher than women in 2008.
- African Americans accounted for 44% of new HIV infections diagnosed in 2009, although they comprise only 14% of the population.
- The HIV infection rate among African American women is 15 times higher than the rate among white women.
- The infection rate among Latinos was two and a half times higher than the rate among whites in 2006.
- In 2009, more than 25% of people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. were women.
- The vast majority of newly diagnosed HIV-positive women contracted the virus through heterosexual sex.
- In 2006, 34% of all new infections occurred among people aged 13-29—more than any other age group. (Updated October 2011)
And this is just for the United States. It’s stories like Bay’s and these statistics that prove that we still need to talk about HIV/AIDS. It’s easy to say, “Well, Bay’s a porn star, she knew the risks, what did she expect?” There may even be some cruel people who say she deserves it (which she didn’t.) But reading this, I say we need to stay aware. At this point in time, it’s safe to say everyone knows someone who has been affected by the virus. One of my great-aunts contracted the virus after a blood transfusion in the days before mandatory screenings. In a measure to save her life, she wound up losing hers. In case I can’t make this point clear enough: