Earlier this week, the LA Times revealed that Derrick Burts was ‘Patient Zeta’. Zeta was the porn performer who tested positive for HIV back in October and who sparked some degree of panic in the US porn industry and a minor moral panic in the media.
Twenty-four year old Burts, who has appeared in both straight and gay porn tested positive after previously being diagnosed with a string of STDs in his first month of working in porn. He apparently found out with his girlfriend beside him. The LA Times piece includes a video with Burts as Burts calls for all porn to use condoms.
It’s been followed by various comment pieces such as this one in the New York Post today – and the target seems pretty universally to be the porn industry with porn industry news sites suggesting the problem lays with the clinic. Certainly, it seems to clinic acted bizarrely if Burts’ account is true – but the AIM clinic disputes his version of events.
If it was the British media dealing with this, there can be little doubt that they would have questioned the actions of Burts himself. One month in to working in porn, three STDs but hey ho he thought, let’s keep cracking and not wear condoms. One word folks – choice. He chose the life and the work. He chose to keep going eve though the risk of contracting an STD was evident not once, not twice but on – according to Burts – three occasions.
I’m curious what the LA Times paid him – if anything. As an out of work positive porn performer he probably needs the money and the interview has the air of a lawyer in the background testing the water. Maybe I’m getting carried away but these stories don’t appear on their own.
The Post article shifts the focus to gay porn – even though we don’t know if it was whilst shooting straight porn that Burts seroconverted – and picks the usual target of Treasure Island Media. Yes, gay porn fits the HIV narrative better than straight and if you’re going to have a Pinata to whack about, you may as well go for the bid daddy. The Post piece once again flags up the decision by TIM to shoot porn with openly HIV positive models barebacking. Casting TIM founder Paul Morris and the whole company as some kind of ‘bogeyman’ merely serves to create further publicity for a company that enjoys playing the bad boy of porn. Moreover, it shows a failure by journalists and health professionals to understand the transformation in sexual attitudes that has happened and continues to occur. Condoms are out, fucking raw is most definitely in.
I remain if the view that HIV will only really be tackled when one of two possibilities occur. The first, the drugs that have transformed the lives of those HIV positive cease to work. Millions die from AIDS and the 1980s ‘plague’ is seen as just a historic taster of what was to come. This seems highly unlikely. The second, a vaccination is developed that confines HIV to the dustbin of history – at least in affluent Western societies – like other illnesses such as Polio. This seems the most likely but we’re a way off it yet.
So we end up continuing with this phony war of condom usage in which the radicals that seek to move beyond a narrative of decay and disease – such as Treasure Island Media – continue to be cast as the “bad guys”, profiting from encouraging people to be HIV positive. When it comes to TIM, I fear this charge is way off the mark. Morris was born into a wealthy family, he was a millionaire before TIM came along and didn’t need porn for money. TIM has always been about doing something more interesting than making profit – and that makes them immeasurably more powerful and threatening to those groups that want condom only porn.