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HIV-positive porn actor pushes for condom use

December 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
An adult film performer who tested positive for HIV earlier this year is calling for stronger safety measures to protect others in the porn industry.Derrick Burts spoke at a tearful and emotional news conference Wednesday morning in Hollywood and said he feels betrayed.

Burts thought the porn industry would be glamorous and pay well. But within one month of working in adult films, he said he contracted multiple sexually transmitted diseases. Seven months into the job, he found out that he tested positive for HIV.

The 24-year-old said there are big gaps in health safety in the porn industry. He worked in gay and straight films. In straight porn films, regular testing is required, but condoms are not used. Burts said when he was on his shoots, there were no condoms on the sets.

In the gay film industry, condoms are used, but regular testing is not required. Burts is calling for mandatory condom use in all porn films.

"I want to be a voice to those who feel like they have no voice, because, as you can imagine, to come forward and be in front of all these cameras, it's not easy," said Burts. "This morning I woke up not knowing what to expect or how much attention this is going to garnish. I checked my Facebook and it was overwhelming to see all the support that I had from just normal people who are HIV positive. It's a sad thing, you know, and this is very hard."

Burts said he went through regular testing at the Adult Industry Medical (AIM) Healthcare Foundation. It's a clinic that all porn actors are required to use in order to be screened every month to ensure that they're not carrying any dangerous diseases.

Burts said that when the AIM healthcare clinic gave him the test results, it did not help him with any follow-up care or refer him to any physician.

He is now getting medical care from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The foundation blasts the adult film industry for its failure to use condoms, and it condemns government agencies for lax enforcement.

"There have been investigations, and there have been citations, and there have been fines, but they haven't escalated enough to really be a deterrent to breaking the law," said Michael Bernstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Burts is one of nine people in Los Angeles County who has contracted HIV in the industry since 2004.

Public health officials have said previously that stronger laws are needed if the film makers don't regulate themselves.

"You wouldn't send someone to a construction site where they are at risk without a hard hat. Why is this industry willing to allow people to put themselves in harm's way?" said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.