The syphilis outbreak in the adult industry has brought to the forefront a highly contested debate as to testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Currently there is a debate as to whether there should be one testing facility or multiple facilities. There is also a debate as to what the proper protocols should be for informing performers and their sex partners of a possible outbreak. There is yet another debate as to whether what exactly should a performer know about his/her costar on set in regards to their medical history.
The main players in this debate are the testing facilities under the umbrella known as the Adult Production Health & Safety Service (APHSS https://aphss.org/ ). APHSS is the brainchild of the Free Speech Coalition (FSC http://www.freespeechcoalition.com/ ) and several major content production studios that openly support the FSC, most notably Manwin, Evil Angel, Kink.com, Girlfriend Films, Gamma Entertainment and Vivid Entertainment. One of those APHSS testing facilities is Cutting Edge Testing, which is owned and operated by Dr. Miao, and is one of the main testing facilities in Los Angeles for the industry. (CET http://cuttingedgetesting.com/ ).
On the other side of the equation is Talent Testing Services (TTS http://www.talenttestingservice.com/ ), a testing laboratory not a medical clinic, which appears to be supported by LATATA ( http://latata.org/ ). The Licensed Adult Talent Agency Trade Association is comprised of several of the licensed and bonded adult talent agents within the United States. Further, TTS is not part of the APHSS system and it appears does not wish to be. TTS is not a medical facility it is a laboratory that performs testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
APHSS’s inception is rather recent, only occurring after Adult Industry Medical (AIM) closed and filed for bankruptcy within the last year. TTS has been in operation for several years.
As for adult performers, they seem to be split as to which testing facility they prefer. Some prefer CET and the APHSS system while others prefer TTS.
Medical History within the APHSS Database…
Without getting into extreme detail as to either service or all that either service offers, since that would require pages of analysis, I would like to confine my discussion to one potential problem with the APHSS database I have been made aware of by seasoned veteran performers.
Since I prefaced this article with the words “hotly debated” let me state this for my readers. I do not have a financial interest in either testing facility. I do not have a preference as to either testing facility. I am not a performer nor a producer and therefore do not have a “dog in this hunt” so to speak. I am neutral as to both facilities so please do not attack me believing this article is merely an attack on APHSS. It is not. It is merely meant to inform and educate based on a potential issue I see with the way medical history is handled in the APHSS system. My goal is that this issue can be resolved and the database improved for the health, safety and knowledge of the talent.
After a discussion on Twitter with Fabian Thylmann it became apparent to this writer that there is a potential hole in the APHSS database as to the past medical history of performers. I have come to this understanding after the conversation with Fabian Thylmann as well as personally attending the APHSS presentation in July conducted by the FSC and Dr. Maio. I will limit my discussion to just one issue. That issue is how past medical history is handled by APHSS.
From my understanding the performers in the APHSS database will be either “cleared” or “not cleared” to work under the APHSS database and call in system. Which means that only the most recent test results will be available to be reported and only in the way proscribed. Which, for legal purposes, is a good idea with the issue of medical privacy being important to so many. As a lawyer, I like the APHSS database. It leaves little room for violation of medical privacy.
However, from my discussions with some veteran performers it appears that there are a contingent of them that would like to know more about their on-screen partner’s medical history, including whether they have tested for syphilis in the past. While normally I would disagree with that position as for chlamydia and gonorrhea I do see that information as being important for syphilis. Syphilis is an infection that can be easily cured but may always result in some level of a positive finding on a sexual transmitted disease test result, depending on the test used. (Please see http://www2a.cdc.gov/stdtraining/self-study/syphilis/syphilis10.asp ). Therefore, I can certainly see a performer’s right to make an informed decision. While medically it may be impossible to transmit the disease once a performer as undergone treatment some performers feel as though that they would like to know that information prior to performing in a scene with previously positive performer. A balance between privacy and informed decisions must be made.
From what I was told by Fabian Thylmann of Manwin, a performer who has tested positive for syphilis will be cleared for work within the APHSS database once they have been examined and cleared by an APHSS physician. Therefore, while we do not know at this time who besides Mr. Marcus may have it, based on Fabian Thylmann’s statement it is possible that at some future point a performer that had syphilis and received treatment will be actively performing again. With this potential hole in the APHSS system anyone working with that performer would not even know about the past positive history for syphilis.
While this might not present much stress for some performers it may for others. I discussed this issue with a male performer that indicated that he did not believe that working with a performer who had previously tested positive for syphilis but is now cured posed much of a risk. However, he did indicate that information would be desirable in order to make an informed decision. Performers should be able to assess risk and balance such concerns themselves.
I had suggested to Fabian Thylmann of Manwin that the APHSS database be changed so that it would instead read “cleared for work” however with a notation. That notation in the database could be an indication that the other performer may have tested positive for syphilis within the last 30, 60, 90 or 180 days depending on long ago the past the positive test occurred. That may allow a performer to make a more informed decision as to who their screen partners will be.
This hole in the database may also become more important in the future if testing is going to expand past the basic HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and now syphilis panel. If the industry adds herpes, hepatitis and human papillomavirus to the regular testing panel how is the APHSS database set up to handle those types of results. Are all performers that test positive for herpes going to be “cleared to work” without a notation that they carry the virus ? As with syphilis is an APHSS doctor going to examine them for the presence of an outbreak before clearing the performer to work ? How often will this exam be necessary ?
Will there be a notation in the APHSS database for those performers that have had a hepatitis B vaccination ? Will a performer know if they are working with someone else who has been vaccinated ?
Since this database is being touted as the database for the entire industry, lets not forget the gay side of production as well. There are gay production companies that allow HIV positive performers to work with other HIV positive performers as well as HIV negative performers ( See http://www.insidesocal.com/outinthe562/2010/11/hiv-positive-gay-porn-actor-signs-exclusive-contract.html ). Some of those studios even match performers with different strains of HIV together. How would this particular situation be handled by the APHSS database and call in system ? Would an HIV positive performer working for a gay production studio “not be cleared for work” or would they. Would a notation be required on that performer’s database file ? Or is APHSS simply not going to allow gay performers and production companies into their database ? That cannot be possible since APHSS has under it’s umbrella of testing facilities a clinic located in San Francisco. There are also straight porn production companies such as Naughty America that are now also producing gay content ( See http://queermenow.net/blog/naughty-america-presents-3-new-gay-porn-sites/ )
Needless to say, the syphilis outbreak has caused numerous questions to be asked in regards to the current state of testing and performer health and safety as well as the mandatory use of condoms now required by state law and Los Angeles city ordinance. Without doubt this issue will continue to be debated, lines will be drawn and sides will be taken. Let us not forget those in the middle of the fire, the performers who risk their health every time they step on set to perform.
Knowledge is power. If you believe I am mistaken in the way medical history will be handled by the APHSS database I invite you to post a comment. Any inaccuracies will be corrected.