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HIV strikes again—what does it mean for the porn industry?

Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Wednesday, 4 Sep 2013 | 3:19 PM ET
Rod Daily
Source: Rod Daily | Twitter
Rod Daily

The revelation that a second porn star has contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, will likely have little to no impact on the bottom line of major porn studios but could act as a rallying point for supporters of mandatory condom laws.

The performer, who calls himself Rod Daily, confirmed his diagnosis Tuesday via Twitter, saying "With the tests I have done the doctors have figured out that I was infected within the last month."

The disclosure comes two weeks after Cameron Bay announced she had tested positive for the virus. While Daily's career was in the gay porn industry, industry insiders say he and Bay were linked romantically. (It's not uncommon for porn performers to cross between gay and straight film genres.) The source of either infection has not been determined, however.

(Read more: LA porn sets shuttered after actress infected with HIV)

Bay's August diagnosis resulted in an immediate call for a moratorium on filming by the Free Speech Coalition, which acts as a lobbying organization for the adult industry (but does not enjoy universal support from everyone in the porn world).

That moratorium was lifted on Aug. 28—when Daily's results were still unknown—and just one week after Bay's diagnosis was announced.

The group has not called for a moratorium after Daily's announcement, but some studios are still holding off on shooting.

(Read more: Debbie does data: Porn gets statistical)

"We are not currently in production," said Steven Hirsch, founder/co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment, one of the industry's largest and best-known studios. "Our next shoot is scheduled for mid-October. We will assess the situation at that time."

(Read more: No porn please, we're British)

While the porn industry is under significant financial pressure due to piracy and the rise of "amateur" websites, insiders say the short August shutdown should not have a noticeable effect on revenue at major studios. And even if the industry were to shut down again following Daily's confirmation that he has tested positive, it still wouldn't be a significant financial drain.

Big players in the porn industry typically have a large stockpile of films awaiting release and can ride out a shutdown. The porn industry shoots roughly 20,000 scenes per year. Bigger companies tend to produce four or five films per month—with costs reaching upward of $300,000—allowing them to stockpile releases.

Globally, porn is a $97 billion industry, according to Kassia Wosick, assistant professor of sociology at New Mexico State University. At present, between $10 billion and $12 billion of that comes from the U.S. Revenue from traditional porn films has been shrinking, though, because of piracy and an abundance of free content on the Internet.

The industry as a whole last halted filming for 10 days in August 2012, when a performer was diagnosed with syphilis but hid the diagnosis from producers and continued performing, prompting fears of a spread among other actors and actresses. (Nearly a dozen porn actors tested positive for syphilis during that outbreak.)

HIV scares have resulted in industry shutdowns in 2011 (due to what turned out to be a false positive) and 2010 (when a true HIV positive result was returned).

The back-to-back cases, though, could have longer-term repercussions, by increasing public support for mandatory condom laws for porn filmed in California. Last year, L.A. County voters approved a bill mandating condom use in adult film productions. (That law is currently being appealed in court.)

Meanwhile, state legislators are also considering a bill that would make condoms mandatory in films shot throughout California.

"Reports of a second confirmed HIV transmission of an adult film actor in less than two weeks should send a chilling message to the public and the adult film industry. Enough is enough," said Assembly member Isadore Hall III, a proponent of the bill, in a statement.

Adult film stars talk about how the industry is changing
Adult performers talk about the changing face of pornography at the AVN Awards.

"Adult film actors placed their trust in an industry that has put porn profits above worker safety. It is time for the Free Speech Coalition and the adult film industry to stand up for the workers that made them successful," Hall added.

Even Daily took shots at the industry for its quick resumption of shooting.

"A week later people are back at it shooting without condoms," he wrote on Twitter. "Magic Johnson has HIV, and can infect other people but his test comes up negative. Is that so impossible for anyone else to do the same? NO. ... Just sayin be careful because that test ain't <expletive> without a condom strapped up with it."

While several porn companies have threatened to leave Los Angeles—and California—if the mandatory condom laws are cleared by the courts, none have yet done so and the gestures are now largely viewed as empty threats.

By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com.

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