Vice Squad
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Adult Entertainment and Sexually-Transmitted Diseases

Back in 2004, there was an HIV outbreak among performers in adult movies; eventually five performers were found to be infected. The virus's spread might have been much broader had it not been for the Adult Industry Medical HealthCare Foundation (AIM) and its founder, Sharon Mitchell. Among other things, AIM tests adult performers for STDs. Yesterday, Dr. Mitchell and AIM put out a warning about travel to Europe for adult workers, due to a syphilis outbreak within the adult industry on the continent. There can be significant lags between contracting an STD and positive test results, so unprotected sexual activity with someone who has just tested negative for an STD is not free of disease risk (and of course, even condom protection is less than perfect).

Dr. Mitchell is not a supporter of governmental mandates in the area of sex worker health; AIM works with performers and producers on a voluntary basis. (Some of their practices, such as informing other performers and producers of positive tests, are at odds with California health privacy rules.) But STD rates in the industry are still much higher than within the public at large -- this is not the case for workers at Nevada's legal brothels -- and some people are calling for state regulation. Dr. Mitchell has suggested a "seal of approval" system, one that is paralleled by a proposal in this article:
Short of legislation mandating performer protection, restricting distribution of adult movies to condom-only films may be the one way to have an impact on the industry. If there were organized and truly effective advocacy for performers, then large hotel chains, video retailers, and cable networks could be pressured to purchase adult films under a condom-only “seal of approval.”
I learned about AIM's alert on the syphilis outbreak from (not work safe) Adult Video; I found the article discussing regulation through SWOP East Sex Workers Outreach Project.

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