it’s not an outbreak, dammit!

There’s been lots more buzz lately about the porn HIV case. Fortunately, there are some places where a more reasonable and informed conversation is taking place. Rather than reiterate it all, here’s a few pointers.

Ernest Greene’s blog, with lots of great comments & discussion: here, here & here. That third link has pointers to some blogs by people who are actually performers in the mainstream het porn world, which gives them much more credibility in my eyes that, say, MSNBC on the topic.

Tony Comstock’s blog, with some very thoughtful input: here & here.

I also recommend pornochromatic, with two very insightful posts here & here. The second one proposes some ways to make the industry safer that seems to take both Ernest & Tony’s valuable ideas and find the middle ground.

Having pointed you to some good places to read about this, I want to add that one case in 5 years is not, in fact, an outbreak. The media has been referring to this unfortunate situation as an outbreak for days and that’s simply not accurate or fair. An outbreak is “an occurrence of disease greater than would otherwise be expected in a particular time and place.” Given how many people there are in porn and how many sexual partners they have, both within and outside the industry, I think it’s fair to say that one HIV case in 5 years is probably significantly less than would be expected among, say, a comparable group of people who don’t get tested monthly.

Maybe I’m extra-sensitive about this since my partner is a public health nurse and I get annoyed when the panic of “outbreaks” that aren’t actually outbreaks make her job nuts. But I do believe that using terms like “outbreak” to describe one case that hasn’t (as far as we know so far) spread is irresponsible because it creates fear & panic. And that’s exactly what we don’t need.

What we need is a solution that is relevant for the health and well-being of the folks who make porn. Legislation based on panic is never effective, reasonable or fair. So please, remember that it’s not an outbreak. It’s a case. And maybe that can help us work out how to move forward.



Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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