“Prevent STDs Like a Porn Star.” Seriously?

Warning: This article contains frank discussion of the pornography industry and links to articles that contain the same. Reader discretion is advised.

Last Thursday, Planned Parenthood’s Facebook page linked to a CNN article titled, “Prevent STDs like a porn star”.

No, really:

“Prevent STDs Like a Porn Star”: Advice That’s Beyond Parody

You might wonder how a self-respecting news outlet could actually say with a straight face that the average person should follow the example of porn stars when it comes to being diligent about avoiding STDs, and yet that’s exactly what CNN proposes in this article that’s part of a series on how to be an “Empowered Patient”.

The writer, Elizabeth Cohen, begins by matter-of-factly recounting an awkward conversation between two porn stars, Dylan Ryan and Danny Wylde, prior to “working” together for the first time. But then, she assures us, the whole experience wasn’t entirely awkward:

While hooking up with a new co-star can provoke some anxiety, there’s one thing they’re usually not anxious about: getting a sexually transmitted disease from their co-star, since both get tested for STDs at least once a month. …

Such diligence about STDs is a good idea for anyone having sex with a new partner, even if you’re not a porn star, says Dr. Craig Strafford, director of clinical research at the Holzer Clinic in Gallipolis, Ohio.

“It really shows they’re thinking conscientiously,” Strafford says. “I think it really works.”

In other words, then, what this doctor is saying is:

Having sex with lots of different people (who have sex with lots of other different people) and making sure to get tested monthly for STDs amounts to “thinking conscientiously”.

Although oddly, just a few paragraphs later, Cohen reports that Wylde “says about once a year [!] he comes down with a case of chlamydia or gonorrhea.”

Ah, but no worries:

“I take some pills and it goes away in a week,” he says, adding that outside of work he has sex only with other performers, since he’s knows they’re regularly tested.

The article goes on to quote Ryan, who talks about her lingering fears of contracting HIV:

“I think about this all the time,” says Ryan, who’s been an adult performer for eight years. “It’s by far the biggest risk in the industry. I think the one thing that gives me comfort—small comfort—is that the people I’m working with by and large have very strong safer sex practices because of what they do for a living.”

Now, here’s the interesting part: in the comments section of the article, Wylde actually admits that although “the only way to be 100% safe is abstinence” — yes, he really did say that — he also acknowledged that most porn performers don’t wear condoms:

Condoms have proved to hamper sales and are frankly inefficient given the way most pornographic productions run. We do not have sex like normal people do in real life. [An interesting admission in itself, no? -JJ]

STDs Rampant among Porn Stars

Whether the commenter calling himself Danny Wylde is who he says he is, it’s well known by those who closely monitor the porn industry that what he’s claiming is true: most porn actors do not wear condoms.

It’s also true that earlier this month, the porn industry’s main STD screening clinic—the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Clinic (AIM), based in Sherman Oaks, CA—closed following allegations of poor treatment by at least one actor who tested for positive for HIV in October 2010, and due to major financial problems brought on by, among other things, numerous lawsuits against it by former porn performers who have accused AIM of failing to keep patient data private. (Interestingly, the CNN article says nothing about AIM’s closing.)

How bad is the problem of STDs among porn stars?

Here are some figures from a memo issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in September 2009:

Since 2004 DPH received reports of 2,396 cases of Chlamydia (CT), 1389 cases of gonorrhea (GC), and five syphilis cases among AFI [adult film industry] performers; 20.2% of performers diagnosed with STD had one or more repeat infections within a one year period. Between 2004 and 2008, repeat infections were reported for 25.5% of individuals. Due to the failure to routinely screen for rectal and oralpharyngeal infections, a sustained high level of endemic disease among AFI workers persists. Furthermore, these disease rates and reinfection rates are likely to be significantly underestimated as rectal and oral screening is not done routinely and these anatomic sites are likely to be a reservoir for repeat reinfection.

Analyses of 2008 data also indicated that AFI performers experience significantly higher rates of infection (20%) than the general public (2.4%) or in the area of the County (SPA 6) experiencing the highest rates of STDs (4.5%). [emphasis added]

The upshot is that the rate of STDs among porn performers is at least 8 times greater than that of the general public, and probably much higher still.

Where Does Planned Parenthood Stand?

I can’t say I’m surprised that CNN would carry water for the porn industry with a clueless article like this, but it’s telling that one of the porn stars interviewed for it would (unwittingly?) contradict the whole point of the article with his candid admissions in the comments section thereof.

As for how Planned Parenthood fits into all this, I mentioned earlier that their Facebook page linked to the article last Thursday, although if you go to their page now, you won’t find it there—it was removed some time late last week.

Why was it removed? It’s certainly not because Planned Parenthood sees anything wrong with pornography—make no mistake, they don’t—but maybe some higher-up decided it would be best to put some distance between Planned Parenthood and the “Prevent STDs Like a Porn Star” article.

Regardless, as of this writing, however, the article is still linked to via the Latinos for Planned Parenthood Facebook page, and via Planned Parenthood’s Twitter page.

Make of that what you will.

UPDATE, 5/31/11: Check out other May 2011 pro-life blog highlights at Life Report’s Pro-Life Link Party here.

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