Study Finds LA County Health Dept Reports on Adult Industry STI Data Flawed, ‘Without Basis in Scien
Dr. Peter Kerndt, Director of STD Programs for LA County
Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the trade association for the adult entertainment industry in the U.S., today announced it has received a report from nationally renowned epidemiologist Lawrence S. Mayer MD, MS, PhD, that establishes that data presented by the L.A. County Public Health Dept (LACPH) on rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for adult industry performers is “poorly documented” and “without basis in science.”
Dr. Mayer currently is a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine, as well as a Professor of Biostatistics at Arizona State University and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Arizona. Since 1998, he has served as a detective in the District Attorney’s Office of Maricopa County, AZ.
“Early in this process, CalOSHA’s Standards Board emphasized the need for an epidemiological analysis of the data surrounding the adult film industry and sexually transmitted infections. To date CalOSHA has had to rely on the inaccurate findings provided by LA County. Now we have information the Standards Board requested using the same scientific methodology that the Center for Disease Control utilizes,” FSC Executive Director Diane Duke said.
In the report, Dr. Mayer analyzes data given in presentations by LACPHD officials Robert Kim-Farley MD, MPH (who also is professor-in-residence at UCLA) and Peter Kerndt MD, MPH on estimated prevalence of gonorrhea, chlamydia and other STIs in the performer population within Los Angeles County, compared to statistics for infection in the general population.
Kim-Farley and Kerndt’s findings suggested that rates of STIs for performers vary from as much as 8 to 60 times more prevalent, in comparison to rates of infection for groups from the general population in Los Angeles County.
However, Mayer’s report concludes that the data presented by Kim-Farley and Kerndt is “fundamentally flawed” and that the methodology used by the doctors to arrive at the estimated rates is invalid. Mayer points out that the statistics calculated by Kim-Farley and Kerndt also contradict each other’s presentations, as well as data contained in other reports on STIs released by LACPH.
Mayer claims that, since the vast majority of persons in LACDPH’s comparison groups are not even tested within any given year for any STIs (and may not be sexually active enough to risk infection), a much better comparison group would be comprised of persons who are frequently tested for infection, similar to adult performers. Utilizing this methodology, the rate of infection in sexually active young people in LA County may be up to ten times higher than Kerndt and Kim-Farley suggest, and not much higher than the supposed rates of adult performer infection.
Mayer’s report goes further to state:
- Kim-Farley and Kerndt did not reveal the methodology employed to derive the estimates they used in their calculations, and provided little or no citation for their data.
- Kerndt suggests, based on anecdotal evidence from “industry sources” that there are 1200 adult performers in LA County, while Kim-Farley places the number at 2000-3000.
- Kim-Farley’s purported chlamydia rate of 1.8% for LA County stands in sharp contrast to other rates reported by his own agency, such as the 11.3% rate published in LACDPH’s 2008 STD Clinic Morbidity Report.
- Kerndt and Kim-Farley’s reports take into account neither re-infection rates nor performer re-testing.
- Kim-Farley’s method of estimating prevalence rates diverges sharply from that recommended by the CDC.
- Kerndt and Kim-Farley’s data, based upon similarly-aged subgroups and all ages, do not take into account the fact that many LA County residents are not tested each year for STIs.
FSC will present the report at the CalOSHA Advisory Subcommittee meeting scheduled for June 7, to be held at the CalTrans Bldg, 100 S. Main Street, in downtown Los Angeles. The meeting was called to discuss possible recommendations to be made to the CalOSHA Standards Board regarding workplace health and safety regulations for adult industry productions. FSC has been working with CalOSHA officials, regulatory compliance experts and adult industry stakeholders to develop industry-appropriate standards in order to protect the well being of the industry and its performers.
The actions follow last week’s announcement by LACPHD Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding in which he proposed a reorganization of the County’s Sexually Transmitted Infection program, headed by Kerndt. According to the L.A. Times, Fielding said that he hopes to improve the program’s efficiency and effectiveness.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has waged a two-year campaign to mandate condom use on adult production sets. AHF has made allegations of “epidemic” STI rates among performers, purportedly based on LA County health department statistics.
In 2009, after a performer referred to as “Patient Zero,” tested positive for HIV, LACPH was forced to retract statements that alleged that up to 18 performers had tested positive for HIV since 2004. LACPH later admitted that it did not know whether these individuals had ever been performers or if they had merely been tested at Adult Industry Medical Health Care (AIM), a clinic that catered to adult industry clients but also served the general public. Long-targeted by AHF, AIM closed in April due to financial hardship.
“It’s time to put political agendas aside and to tell the truth about the adult entertainment industry, and that is that our performers are valued, protected and safe,” Duke said.