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HIV Case Airs Secrets of Porn Industry

Boasting uninhibited women, lush tropical backdrops, and cheap production costs, Brazil has become a prime destination for adult film outsourcing. But Brazil also has the second highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the western hemisphere. Last month, the porn industry's increasingly global risks surfaced when an American porn actor contracted HIV after shooting unprotected sex scenes with more than a dozen Brazilian women. Thirty US porn studios halted production, virtually shutting down the $4.4 billion per year industry based in California's San Fernando Valley. The incident sparked criticism from Brazil's adult film industry, Latin America's largest. While America's porn industry relies on testing to halt the spread of the virus, Brazil's scoffs at testing as expensive and unreliable, and instead depends on condoms to prevent infections. Despite the risks, however, money talks: Brazilian actresses, many of whom moonlight as prostitutes, can double the $175 they earn per scene if they work with actors not wearing condoms. – YaleGlobal

HIV Case Airs Secrets of Porn Industry

An HIV infection of a porn actor sends shock waves through the industry in the U.S. and draws criticism from Brazil
Alan Clendenning
The Miami Herald, 29 April 2004

SAO PAULO - Flush with dollars, American porn film directors swoop into Brazil for its exotic and uninhibited women, dazzling tropical backdrops and cheap production costs -- a phenomenon that has turned South America's largest country into a prime destination for adult film outsourcing.

But the infection of an American porn star with HIV last month after shooting unprotected sex scenes with more than a dozen Brazilian women is sending shock waves through the industry's California heartland and prompting Brazilian performers to criticize their American counterparts.

America's adult film industry relies on testing to prevent the spread of the virus. But testing is scoffed at in Brazil as expensive and unreliable. The Brazilian porn industry, Latin America's largest, has long depended on condoms to prevent actors from getting and spreading HIV.

Darren James, the American actor who contracted the virus, apparently in Brazil, and infected at least one actress after returning to the United States, ''took a risk that many Brazilian actors won't,'' said Evaldo Shiroma, who heads the Brazilian Erotic Industry Association.

Brazil, like many countries, does not require HIV testing for porn actors, and American actors who work in the country often go back to the United States immediately to film more movies, boosting the infection risk.

POSITIVE RESULT

James performed with 13 actresses after returning to the United States before a blood test two weeks ago showed he was HIV-positive.

One partner, Lara Roxx, also tested HIV positive.

Since then, more than 50 performers who had contact with the two or their on-screen sex partners have been barred by the American industry from performing pending new tests.

Thirty companies halted production, virtually shuttering a business based in California's San Fernando Valley that generates at least $4.4 billion annually.

Brazil's adult film industry produces a much lower $100 million yearly, industry players estimate. But the business is thought to be the second-largest in the world after the United States and is growing rapidly.

Dozens of porn production companies operate in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. The films are so widely accepted that videos and DVDs are showcased on corner newsstands.

CHEAP TALENT

In recent years, a growing number of American and European adult film directors headed to Brazil -- looking for new talent and taking advantage of the 2002 collapse of the local currency, the real, that made outsourcing more cost-effective.

But producers chose the country with the most people in the hemisphere with HIV or AIDS after the United States. They usually head to Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro -- home to 60 percent of the 540,000 Brazilians with HIV or AIDS, according to a recent World Bank study.

Though the Brazilian porn film industry is unregulated, most production companies honor a gentleman's agreement requiring actors to use condoms.

Actors could not afford regular HIV tests that cost $140 each, and producers feared being sued by actors getting the virus while working.

While roughly 80 percent of Brazilian porn films are made with actors using condoms, about the same percentage of American movies feature actors not wearing them. Brazilian industry executives say most Americans who film in Brazil require their actors to film unprotected sex scenes.

SEX SCENES

At Sao Paulo's eighth annual Erotika Fair last week, Brazilian porn actors said American directors often bring in their own male talent but usually hire Brazilian actresses who often moonlight as prostitutes and are also willing to have sex without condoms.

The Brazilians make about $175 for sex scenes with condoms, but can double their pay working with actors not wearing them.

Source:The Miami Herald
Rights:© 2004 The Miami Herald