AHF Reveals New UCLA Study Concerning STDs in Porn

Jun 10, 2014 12:15 PM PST

ATLANTA — AIDS Healthcare Foundation held a teleconference today to present a recent embargoed UCLA research study of several hundred adult film performers.

According to AHF, the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health research study (still pending publication) confirms the health risks — including high STD risk — facing many porn actors working in the industry.

Results of the study were presented (in poster form) today at the CDC’s 2014 STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

The survey of 366 active porn performers, which used a dual methodology of self-reports and lab testing, showed that 24 percent of participants tested positive for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Sixty-nine percent reported that they had not used a condom onset in the last 30 days. A majority (75 percent) of the participants were female. 

The study did not collect data on the population’s other STD infections, including herpes, syphilis and HIV, reportedly due to a funding shortage that would not cover additional lab tests and infection treatment.  

AHF President Michael Weinstein called the study “very pertinent to the current discussion of legislation in Sacramento,” referring of course to the statewide porn-condom initiative AB 1576.

Previously embargoed, the AHF-touted study that looked at data collected from August 2012–July 2013 couldn’t have been released at a more pertinent time — AB 1576 will be heard in about two weeks by the California Senate Labor Committee on June 25. 

“Pornographers have worked hard to obscure the facts as they relate to the spread of STDs in the adult film industry and, as AIDS Health Foundation has said on many occasions, the primary issue we’ve been addressing in relationship to the industry is the risk of STDs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, rather than HIV,” Weinstein said at the conference.

However, AB 1576’s sponsor Assemblyman Isadore Hall has referred to recent undocumented onset transmissions of HIV at most, if not all, of the bill’s hearings.

Carrying a particularly shameful connotation, the study pitted scene type (DP, double anal, gangbang, cream pie, double vaginal, fisting and rimming) against rate of STD infection — apparently designating some scene types as more “intense” and “risky” — and found a significant association between type of scene, infection and the age of the performer.

Adam Carl Cohen, AHF’s public health consultant who broke the study down at the conference, freely interpreted the findings, “Being an older performer and not doing the more intense scenes, and again I won’t get graphic, were protected against infection. Meaning that if you are younger, or if you are doing a more risky scene, that there is a statistically significant greater likelihood of infection.” He did not mention confounding factors like drug use and off-set sexual practices, and did not explain why the measure was of interest to AHF or its political agenda. 

Encompassing a scope far greater than just the prevalence of STDs in the porn performer pool, the study looked at self-reports of physical, emotional and drug-related abuse in the industry, leading Weinstein to conclude that “there’s an environment of abuse in this industry, which clearly reflect the need for statewide regulation.”

According to the study, 33.2-percent of participants had used a drug in the past three months (tests revealed that 58.7-percent on the incidents were marijuana-related). It also revealed that 15.4 percent of respondents said thay had to perform sexual favors to secure work and 13.6 percent said have had to perform a sex act they did not want to.

Without any supporting empirical research at hand, Weinstein also discounted female performers’ claims of genital chafing and pain associated with condom use that has been voiced at recent hearings on AB 1576.

“When you look, and I won’t go into graphic detail here, but when you look at the practices that these performers are involved in, obviously their bodies take a lot more abuse than would be there with condoms,” Weinstein said. “And this idea of chafing is something that’s really unheard of in public health.”

AHF compiled the study's results into an infographic.

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