People in my profession are at increased risk for acquiring certain diseases: tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B and C, and some others. We vaccinate against the ones we can (primarily hepatitis B) and exercise universal precautions, which involves careful attention to bodily fluids and other infectious tissue. The basic rule is, “assume everyone has a blood-borne infection.” We don’t make the same assumptions for other illnesses such as tuberculosis as these usually have symptoms when they are infectious, as opposed to HIV and hepatitis. Even with these precautions, health care workers are frequently exposed to blood-borne infections.
Now imagine a job where you are intentionally exposed to infectious bodily fluids, perhaps containing HIV, hepatitis B or C, syphilis, or any combination of these. There is an entire industry in Southern California where this happens on a daily basis. The San Fernando Valley is home to America’s mutli-billion dollar pornography industry. This industry has made attempts at regulating itself but these attempts are falling far short.
According to the New York Times, 22 pornography actors have contracted HIV in the last 4 years. The details of these infections are unclear, and whether other infections such as syphilis or hepatitis are also spreading has not been reported.
No industry should tolerate this level of preventable occupational injury. None. But how do we encourage prevention? Pornography is already a “grey market” industry, and if more tightly regulated, I’m sure most would slip back into the black market. I don’t know what the solution is, especially among workers so prone to being exploited, but shining some light on the issue will hopefully help.