Move over, condoms! Porn has a new debate: HIV meds

A debate is raging in the porn community about medication that prevents HIV transmission

Topics: Pornography, porn, Condoms, HIV, AIDS,

Move over, condoms! Porn has a new debate: HIV meds (Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu)

The porn industry is calling for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to get on board with HIV prevention and education — and, no, I didn’t get the subject and object of that sentence confused.

For so long now, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has campaigned to make condoms mandatory in the adult industry. Much of the industry has resisted, due to concerns about free speech and performer agency, among many others. Now, Peter Acworth, CEO of, is turning it around on AHF, basically saying, If you guys are so interested in preventing the spread of HIV, why don’t you support our initiative to educate porn performers about Truvada, an antiretroviral that can be taken by those who engage in high-risk sex to prevent  HIV transmission.

In an open letter to AHF President Michael Weinstein, Acworth wrote,“The fact is, none of the performers you bring to your press conferences would have been protected had AB1576 [a bill requiring condoms in porn] been passed ten years ago, because no California condom law is going to protect performers during their personal lives, or shooting on unregulated sets overseas,” says Acworth, referring to the news in 2004 that performer Darren James had contracted HIV during a shoot in Brazil. “PrEP, if it works as advertised, could do just that.” Indeed, researchers have found that when taken as directed, Truvada could decrease transmission risk by 99 percent among heterosexual men and women. When the FDA approved the drug in 2012, it specifically listed sex workers as a key demographic.

Acworth went on to say, “We’ve recently begun working with HIV and sex worker health organizations to develop an educational program about PrEP specifically targeting adult performers — it would be great if you could be a part of it.”

It’s not too likely that Weinstein will go for this. Last month, he told the Associated Press, “If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that,” he said. “Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.” As you might expect, that remark did not go over so well. In response, a petition was started to have Weinstein removed as president of the organization.

In response to Acworth’s letter, Ged Kenslea, spokesperson for AHF, asked, “Is he going to be paying the eighteen hundred dollar monthly bill per performer for that?” (A spokesperson for Kink notes that Truvada is covered by most insurance since it is FDA approved.) He added that both CDC and FDA guidelines for PrEP call for the use of condoms, and that “PrEP does not prevent chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis.” PrEP is not “an alternative to condoms,” he told me.

In an email, Acworth pressed his case: “In each of the HIV-related moratoriums the industry has called since 2004, the source of the transmission was off-set. That is, our testing system caught a performer who was attempting to work after acquiring HIV in their personal lives,” he said. “A condom mandatory policy on-set would not have prevented any of those. If we really want to talk about protecting performers, we need to talk about ways to do it on-set and off.” He added, “We owe it to performers to inform them about the risk and the spectrum of protection available so that they can make educated decisions about their sexual health.”

Acworth also expressed excitement over current trials for a version of PrEP that “can be administered quarterly via an injection,” and says it’s “something that could be administered as part of the current industry testing.”

Diane Duke, chief executive officer of the Free Speech Coalition, which manages safety guidelines and health services for the adult industry, tells me it’s likely that the organization “will consider the possible benefit of PrEP for performers and determine if and how [it] can build a bridge between the performer pool and this promising innovation.”

One thing is clear: Even as medical advances provide new ways to protect against HIV transmission, the debate over condoms in porn isn’t getting any easier, and it certainly isn’t going away.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...