NAIROBI, - The US adult film industry was brought to a virtual standstill recently after an actor tested HIV-positive and all his sexual partners were tested for the virus. There are no such precautions in Kenya's porn industry, where actors usually perform without a condom or routine HIV testing.
don't know my HIV status and I can't say I know that of the men we act
with," said Angela*, who recently made the switch from eight years of
street-based sex work to acting in local porn films. "I know it is a
dangerous thing I am doing, but I console myself that it is the same
people all the time we act with in the videos... at times, doing it
without a condom might give you extra pay."
Kenya's local porn
industry, once limited to photography, has grown in recent years. DVD
peddlers surreptitiously hawk films on street corners while some
producers and distributors have created adult web sites and even clubs
where audiences can watch films or witness live sex acts. More
profitable than street- or bar-based sex work, acting in porn films is
an attractive option for many young men and women struggling to make
ends meet in the capital, Nairobi.
Producing, trafficking or performing in pornographic films is illegal in Kenya under section 181 of the penal code, and is punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years.
to one producer and distributor who preferred anonymity, this makes it
difficult to regulate health and safety in the industry.
encourage people to test for HIV but it's not mandatory, and even when
they do get tested, we have no way of knowing that the papers they bring
are genuine," he said. "Sometimes one participant will agree to go for a
test and the other won't; because we are working on deadlines, we often
just get them to do it live [without a condom]."
He added that
while he encouraged condom use, the actors were often drunk when they
performed and protecting themselves against HIV was not high on their
list of priorities. "Sometimes they say the styles they want to use are
not condom-friendly - it's really up to the actors if they want to use
them," he said.
Unlike the US, where porn stars can make
thousands of dollars, local actors earn between US$70 and $150 per film,
according to the producer. For many of the girls, this means they need a
Veronica*, 19, does sex work when video work is slow.
"You know videos don't come every day so when they are not available, I
continue with my work as a prostitute," she said. "When I am working as a
prostitute I use condoms all the time with my clients but you know in
acting, it is not automatic... I have never thought of it as that risky,
Although there are no figures for HIV prevalence
among those working in Kenya's porn industry, sex workers and their
partners are considered a “most at-risk population”, accounting for an
estimated 14 percent of new infections annually. They can also act as a bridge for the spread of HIV into the general population.
men I act with in the videos are colleagues... my boyfriend doesn't
know what I do and I would never want him to know," Angela said, adding
that if he ever found out, the relationship would be over.
The government, which has this year increased its focus on most at-risk populations,
has started targeting sex workers for HIV prevention. It is also
conducting a “risk factor analysis” of these groups to better understand
their risks and how to address them.
"Many of the people who
take part in adult films are commercial sex workers from what we know,
so I think they can greatly benefit from prevention programmes that
target commercial sex workers and other most at-risk populations," said
Nicholas Muraguri, head of the National AIDS and Sexually transmitted
infections Control Programme. "Maybe what needs to be done is to educate
them and emphasize to them the need to first test for HIV and
[practise] consistent condom use in whatever it is they are doing."