Cameron Bay Tests Positive for HIV: How Do We Keep Sex Workers Safe?
Amanda Duncil | On 17, Sep 2013
Recently, adult film actress Cameron Bay tested positive for HIV merely days after receiving negative test results. The news caused the industry to shut down production on new filming until Bay’s partners could be tested. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only performer affected. Rod Daily, Bay’s boyfriend, also tested positive.
In light of such upsetting news, people have been very supportive of Bay’s diagnosis and are actively seeking a solution for safer sex practices in the industry.
Just kidding. This is the Internet we’re talking about.
The news was received about as well as telling an avid fan that their favorite show on television was just cancelled. Vicious commenters took it upon themselves to wish ill will toward the actress, including death threats and comments about her appearance.
I would like it if just once everyone could take a step back from their self-righteous, victim-blaming wisdom and acknowledge that Bay is a normal human who is just like us and is now fighting for her life due to the risks involved with her work. Don’t forget that it takes a single exposure with an infected person to contract a virus, meaning that a non-sex worker can contract an illness just as easily from having sex with a significant other. Being a porn star does not make it Bay’s fault for contracting HIV.
If you injure yourself on the job, you likely won’t be immediately dismissed for being careless; the job covers the damages incurred while under their supervision. In this case, the same should be true, and we should work toward making the industry a safer environment for performers.
Let’s be honest: Porn is a sticky subject.
Since sex work is illegal — and a hushed topic — in most of the United States, it’s vastly unregulated. In a profession where violence, coercion, and trafficking are common practices and working conditions are not always inspected for health and safety reasons, employers in the industry don’t always have their employees’ best interests in mind.
The pornographic film industry isn’t vastly different. Although there is no law requiring performers to get tested for STIs, most film stars get screened about once a month. Last November, the “Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act” passed in Los Angeles and required directors to apply for licenses to film sex scenes and mandated that performers wear condoms during filming. Unfortunately, the act did little to improve the health regulations in the industry. Instead, it forced businesses out of L.A. and cut into the wages of performers who stayed in the area.
So what about the performers who work under the safer sex regulation? They’re more protected, since they’re using condoms right? Well, no, not quite. As adult actress Jessica Stoya explained, condoms don’t necessarily mean safer sex. Stoya points out that condoms are a prevalent cause of abrasions during the type of lengthy intercourse commonly used for filming purposes, which can lead to infections or STI transmission if the condom isn’t effective.
The stigma surrounding sex work is notoriously marginalizing for workers and is enough to keep most people from discussing a better state of affairs. Aside from condoms, the best preventative measure offered is testing, and while it can quickly catch less dangerous diseases quickly and effectively, HIV is tricky to deal with. If a person tests too soon after contracting the virus, it can still show negative.
A report from the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America states:
“It is difficult to determine precisely the incidence of HIV infection among sex workers, or the prevalence of safer sex practices during commercial sex transactions. Like other marginalized populations, sex workers often receive scant attention from both public health officials and researchers. The stigma attached to sex work, and the criminal sanctions it can entail, make reliable data hard to come by. There is almost no information about male sex workers.”
According to the World Health Organization, one solution is to push for decriminalization of sex work, including adult film actors, and allow wider access to health services. Doctors Gruzden and Kerndt believe the key to protecting workers is to regulate the industry because it “lacks the will or ability” to do so for itself. The pair believes that state and federal legislation is the saving grace that will help enforce health and safety standards.
Health professionals are regularly tested for the numerous ailments they could possibly be exposed to during their line of work. If they get stuck with a used needle or walk into an infectious patient’s room unprotected, they are immediately tested. Other professionals who participate in dangerous work often receive hazard pay, or additional compensation for potentially putting themselves in danger.
Many people enjoy a dose of adult entertainment now and again, and while it might sometimes perpetuate unrealistic ideas for those who have trouble discerning fantasy from reality, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with consenting adults exploring their sexuality in a healthy environment. This applies not only to us regular folk, but to the performers who create adult media as well.