By: Rong-Gong Lin II
Rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia are significantly higher among adult film stars in Los Angeles County compared to legal prostitutes in Nevada, according to a report published this week. On Nov. 6, voters will consider a measure that would require porn actors to wear condoms.
A study of 168 adult film performers in Los Angeles County found that 28%, or 47 performers, tested positive for either gonorrhea or chlamydia or both diseases. The report was written by six public health experts, whose affiliations include the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and UCLA.
“Compared with the brothel workers of Nevada, another legal sex worker population in the United States, [gonorrhea] and [chlamydia] prevalence in this study is significantly higher,” said the report, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases on Tuesday. The study ran from mid-May to mid-September 2010.
Sexually transmitted infection rates among legal prostitutes are negligible, the report said, because brothel workers in Nevada are required by state law to use condoms and are tested weekly for disease. Since those rules went into effect in Nevada, there have been no cases of HIV infection, and their infection rates were negligible, the report said.
In contrast, the report said, there have been a number of HIV infections among porn stars in Los Angeles County since the 1990s. The report said that there was “very low” consistent condom use among the study participants, either on the set or in their personal lives.
“The results of this study suggest that many performers in the [adult film industry] are not safe on the job from acquiring and transmitting [sexually transmitted infections] at multiple anatomical sites,” the report concluded. “Repeated and chronic infection with [sexually transmitted infections] can lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancies, and can facilitate HIV infection.”
The authors also said that many adult film performers may not be aware of their infection. The industry standard calls for regular urine testing, but does not test for infections in the rectum or the mouth and throat.
“The report clearly shows that current testing practices miss two-thirds of active gonorrhea and chlamydia infections,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, former director of STD prevention and control services in San Francisco who is now a UCLA professor of medicine. Klausner was not involved in the study.
“What that says is that the current testing is grossly inadequate and testing plus condoms is a reasonable strategy to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections,” Klausner said.
The study was published a week before voters will go to the polls to consider Measure B, which would require adult film performers to wear condoms during filming. The initiative is sponsored by the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which says that porn performers need to be protected from HIV and sexually transmitted disease, and the issue is a matter of protecting public health.
The adult film industry has opposed the measure, saying consumers don’t want to buy porn that features condoms. They say that regular testing of adult film performers offers a safe environment for them, although they have acknowledged the risk of disease infection. Opponents of Measure B have argued that voters do not want the creation of an unwanted, ineffective county bureaucracy and said the industry can police itself.
Christian Mann, general manager of Evil Angel Video, said he did not think the study justifies Measure B. He said he believed performers would continue to not use condoms on set, and that the law, if passed, could jeopardize the stability of the industry-led protocol of regular testing for STDs. Measure B “does zero to ameliorate the spread of gonorrhea or chlamydia among this population,” Mann said.