Commentaries

Cary Savitch Commentary - HIV in Porn Film Stars
May 21, 2001

This Medical clinic for porn stars conducts HIV tracking and partner notification, two elements of traditional public health that have been AWOL in California's HIV prevention program. How sad is it that a degrading industry of perversion does more to protect its own than the state does to protect the health of its citizens?


The Associated Press May 21, 2001, Monday, BC cycle Clinic identifies 11 HIV cases among porn stars since 1998 DATELINE: LOS ANGELES

In the last three years, a medical clinic that caters to porn stars has identified 11 HIV-positive cases among actors who might have gone undetected. The Adult Industry Medical clinic, or AIM, was created in 1998 after an outbreak of HIV among porn stars. It soon became the leading clinic nationwide catering to workers in the multibillion-dollar, San Fernando Valley-based porn industry.

The purpose of the clinic is to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV, which causes AIDS, in a profession where men and women may have dozens of sexual partners in a matter of weeks. Each month, the clinic sees 400 to 500 adult entertainers, who are required by most of their employers to provide blood and urine samples for HIV and sexually transmitted disease tests.

Mitchell and others enter lab results into a database that tracks cases. AIM notifies those infected and their partners. Mitchell said the 11 HIV-positive cases among porn actors they have detected might have otherwise gone undetected and exposed the virus, exponentially, to dozens, if not hundreds. "Basically, I put Band-Aids on shotgun wounds all day," said Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the nonprofit health clinic. "I can't stop HIV, but I can help prevent it."

Mitchell founded AIM, along with Northridge doctor Steven York, and some X-rated companies. Five days a week, she leads discussions that address drug abuse, negative body image, low self-esteem, abusive pasts and other afflictions common to the industry. "We talk about sex in great detail, and in a nonjudgmental manner," said the 43-year-old former porn star. "We don't deal with shame." Although adult film actors, producers and directors recognize the profession's hazards, Mitchell said they consider the risk of infection so slight that they often don't insist on using condoms. In fact, most porn stars receive extra money - as little as $50 - if they forgo condoms.

Mitchell and York admit that their screening system isn't foolproof. Adult performers can get tested at any medical office, and the industry's STD database only includes those tested at AIM, Mitchell said. "We don't offer a 100 percent guarantee," York said. "We don't pretend for a moment that there aren't risks. We just try to reduce those risks." Funding for the clinic comes from porn companies, donations and fees for health screening. Mitchell said AIM is struggling for grant money from companies and agencies hesitant to help a nonprofit associated with porn.

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