Last week Los Angeles County health officials announced a porn actress tested positive for HIV, creating a huge panic and public relations nightmare for the adult industry. Since then it has been revealed "at least 16 additional unpublicized cases of HIV have been confirmed in adult film performers" in straight porn. The new cases bring renewed scrutiny to the $12-billion-a-year industry's long history of resisting regulation and condom use.
Popular adult performer Darren James—described as "well-endowed and extremely muscular performer for his slender frame"—tested positive for HIV in April 2004 and found himself "at the center of an HIV outbreak in the San Fernando Valley's multibillion-dollar porn industry", reports the Los Angeles Times. James infected three actresses he had worked with before learning that he was HIV-positive and porn production was shut down for a month. The former porn actor speaks out for the first time some five years later.
By April 2004, he was at the pinnacle of his career, traveling to foreign countries to shoot films, sometimes working six days a week and two or three scenes a day. "You're like Superman. Especially with the amount of work that I had? It was nonstop," James said. "I'm thinking, I'm invincible. . . . That's just the way our mentality was. It was, you get the test, you're clean, not realizing that in between the tests, and after the tests, you know, other people, you don't know what they're doing."
The call that changed his life came as James was getting ready to book tickets to Japan for another international shoot. The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation clinic officials told him he was HIV positive. And, he said, they told him they planned to release his name publicly. He asked them not to—in part out of concern for his parents who did not know how he made his living—but they did anyway. "It was like a hit in the gut," James said. "My whole world stops. . . .Life was pretty much over."
Distraught, James said, he bought a bus ticket to Tijuana, planning to disappear. But the news spread quickly. In Mexico, he saw TV footage with a photo of him smirking as if, he said, he was smirking at the situation. In Tijuana, James said, he tried to kill himself. After the attempt, he woke up days later in a hospital near San Diego. It took him months to recover, he said. He later found out that his mother learned about his diagnosis, and his porn career, on TV at her church.
The former porn actor sued the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation clinic and several of its officials, alleging medical negligence and invasion of privacy. The case was later settled out of court. Darren James is sharing his story now and hopes it will spur "the porn industry to require condoms, rarely used in straight porn films."
Don't see that happening anytime soon. Do you?