How Porn Can Help Fight Coronavirus

The porn industry has a robust testing and tracing system. It can be studied and scaled.

Dr. Sharon Mitchell at the former AIM clinic

Porn is full of unprotected sex, but there hasn’t been on set transmission of HIV for over 15 years. They have a system for sex work in the middle of an epidemic. Now that we’re all in the middle of an epidemic, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from porn.

Pioneers like Dr. Sharon Mitchell did contact tracing, testing, and isolation for an outbreak in 1998. That former porn actress understood both the community and the science. She operationalized her experience into the Adult Industry Medical Clinic (AIM) which began testing and certifying thousands of adult performers.

Stephen Simon, AIDS coordinator for the city of Los Angeles says that AIM’s protocols outshine anything else in the area. “Their testing and partner tracking procedure is far better than any public health entity I can imagine. Between that and post-exposure prophylaxis being available, a system with their containment policy is highly effective.” (The Lancet, 2004)

After a data breach in 2011, that groundbreaking system passed to the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), which now runs the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS), which is standard across the mainstream porn industry.

Current protocol requires performers to be tested for HIV and other STIs every two weeks. Results are uploaded to the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) system, which is accessible to producers and directors. The system does not show actual test results, just a green checkmark if the performer is approved to work, and a red X if they are not. If a performer tests positive for HIV, the FSC mandates a production hold until all performers who had contact with the infected person are notified and retested. Once it’s been determined there is no risk, production resumes. (Globe and Mail)

It is a robust system with two-week checks for all workers and automatic contact tracing and ‘lockdown’ procedures built-in. You could easily repurpose this for, say, a meat-packing plant. Have every employee tested biweekly, database approval required to work, and automatic shutdown and tracing of the entire plant if an outbreak occurs.

“In many ways, what they are doing is a model for what we are trying to do with COVID,” said Ashish Jha, a physician who directs Harvard University’s Global Health Institute and has been calling for widespread national testing to contain the coronavirus. “The adult film industry teaches us that as a proof of concept, this can work. We just have to scale it up.” (STAT News)

In essence, it is foolish to not learn from the last epidemic (HIV/AIDS) because of prudishness. Porn is a multi-billion dollar industry that somehow figured out how to work through an epidemic that should have decimated it, not to mention regular STDs. For commercial reasons, the vast majority of porn sex is unprotected, but they manage to control most spread (with definite room for improvement, chlamydia, and gonorrhea rates seem high).

Now that we have a disease spread through oral existence and where your average AC’d room is as risky as a porn set, we would realistically need porn-levels of security before going back to work.

Countries that have suppressed their epidemics — like Mongolia, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, or New Zealand — can manage spread with border controls, or rapid containment procedures like in South Korea. However, some countries like the United States and the UK will now never reach suppression. They’ve simply delayed and dithered too long.

What the US White House has (regular testing of staff) will have to be scaled across a range of industries if they’re serious about getting this thing under control (under this White House they’re not, but perhaps under another administration).

The simplest model to scale here is porn.

Mitchell remembers the most recent HIV outbreak as a harrowing time. “This actor picked it up in Brazil. He tested when he got back but no test on earth will pick up HIV only 7 days after exposure so he had a negative test. He came back 3 weeks later and tested positive. I had to quarantine 60 people who had first or second generation exposure to him. I found three women who had unprotected anal sex with him during his most virulent phase and they were positive, but the amazing thing is that they were all on quarantine. This was early detection. You can’t look at any other model in the world and say this wasn’t handled brilliantly.” (The Lancet, 2004)

Everybody’s watching porn. Now is the time to look at the industry.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. indi@indi.ca. Videos: tiny.cc/indication and podcast: anchor.fm/indication. patreon.com/indication

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