THE PORN INDUSTRY: A WEB OF HIV INFECTIONS

The AIDS scare tearing through the adult- film industry would be even worse, except for former porn actress Sharon Mitchell, 46. She's cofounder of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, where 1,200 performers are tested monthly for diseases from gonorrhea to AIDS. The scare started when a porn actor named Darren James, fresh from a shoot in Brazil, tested positive for HIV last Monday. In March, he'd been clean, so Mitchell and her staff used their database of video productions to find 13 of James's "first generation" sexual contacts and another three-dozen "second generation" people, mostly men who'd had sex with the women after James had. To allow time for testing, Mitchell asked the industry to halt production until June 8. Such is her power in the fractious $9 billion porn business that many agreed to the moratorium, at least temporarily. "About half of the industry is shut down and half isn't," Mitchell told NEWSWEEK. Her credentials: she has a master's in public health and a doctorate in human sexuality--and is enshrined in Hustler's Walk of Fame. Already, her work has shown that actress Laura Roxx tested positive after shooting a scene with James on March 24. Roxx, 19, had appeared in only eight sex scenes in her short career. But testing is meaningless until 30 days after exposure. The full toll? Mitchell says: "We'll know by June 8."