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In Response To Recent HIV Scares, One Porn Producer Vows To Start Requiring Condoms On Set

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"In Response To Recent HIV Scares, One Porn Producer Vows To Start Requiring Condoms On Set"

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Tristan

Tristan Taormino

Spurred by the adult film industry’s recent HIV scares, which halted production two separate times earlier this month, at least one porn producer doesn’t want to take any more chances. Tristan Taormino is poised to become one of the few producers who requires performers to wear condoms when they’re shooting heterosexual scenes.

“It just struck me we need to take a step back and look at how we can give people the safest work experience possible,” Taormino told CNN. “I can no longer roll the dice on my set.”

Less than two weeks after Taormino cast 28-year-old Cameron Bay in one of her films this summer, she found out that Bay had tested positive for HIV. Shortly thereafter, two additional porn stars discovered they also had the virus, and there’s been unconfirmed speculation about a fourth.

Thinking about the possibility that Bay could have transmitted the virus to other people on her set made Taormino too nervous, so the porn producer decided to make “a fundamental change in the way she does business.” It’s a fairly unusual move. Although condoms are standard in gay porn, the producers who shoot explicit heterosexual scenes have typically eschewed them, saying that type of straight porn doesn’t sell.

Toarmino — a former sex columnist for the Village Voice who describes herself as a feminist pornographer aiming to “educate people of all genders and sexual orientations in their pursuit of healthy, empowering, and transformative sex and relationships” — doesn’t care if she loses viewers over her decision. She suspects the porn industry’s concerns about the unpopularity of explicit scenes that include condoms might be over-exaggerated.

“I know there’s a lot of talk about how porn watchers don’t want to see condoms and sales will plummet and everyone’s going to be miserable. But I’m not buying it,” Taormino told CNN. “I know it feels like I’m going out on a limb, but I hope that others will join me.”

The Free Speech Coalition, the trade group representing the porn industry, has strongly resisted efforts to require adult film actors to wear condoms on set. After Los Angeles County passed a “condoms in porn” law last year, the Free Speech Coalition quickly moved to challenge it in court. This month’s news has renewed calls for this type of legislation, and some HIV prevention advocates are pushing to expand LA’s measure to the rest of California. But the porn industry has been quick to note that it already requires regular STD screenings, and that’s enough to make sure actors are healthy.

In response to this month’s HIV outbreak, the Free Speech Coalition has narrowed the window between mandatory testing from every 28 downs to every 14 days. Taormino says that still isn’t necessarily foolproof, though. Porn stars can become infected during the two weeks between each test, and sometimes HIV tests can show a false negative for up to 10 days after an individual has become infected.

Last week, two of the adult performers who tested positive for HIV this month spoke publicly for the first time. Cameron Bay and Rod Daily, who are romantically linked, made the case for condoms in porn at a press conference alongside the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Daily, who has typically performed in gay porn and is used to using barrier methods on set, pointed out that requiring porn stars to use condoms isn’t “really that crazy” of a concept. “Ultimately, it’s just a big industry, and their main concern is money. If they do care that much about the performers, they would use condoms,” Daily said.

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