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Sexual Health Roundup: Rates of HIV Infection in African-American Women Five Times Higher Than Previously Thought

Martha Kempner

Weekly Sexual Health Round Up: Rate of new HIV infection among African-American women in some communities matches that of countries in sub-Saharan Africa; men more likely to die during extra-marital sex; porn industry reacts to condom mandates.

Welcome to our new Weekly Sexual Health Roundup! Each week, writer and sexual health expert Martha Kempner will summarize news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STDs, and more.  We will still report in depth on some of these stories, but we want to make sure you get a sense of the rest and the best.

The Condom Cops? And Will the Porn Industry Leave Its California Home?

A new city ordinance requiring porn stars to use condoms took effect in L.A. last week and some fear that the industry will simply relocate. The ordinance is narrow in scope as it only applies to those shoots that take place on location and require a permit; most of the larger adult film companies shoot almost exclusively in their own studios and therefore will be largely exempt from this rule.  Moreover, many films are shot without permits; there are 50,000 porn movies made in L.A. each year and only about 2,400 permits issued. Enforcement of the ordinance remains up in the air.  The City Council gave the industry and law enforcement six months to work out how condom use on sets will be monitored and what will happen to those who are not in compliance.  There are four months left but so far no “condom cops” have been deployed.

Some argue that if the law is enforced, production companies will simply leave the city while others say that the industry is too entrenched in the area and relies on the movie-making culture of Los Angeles. They argue it may not be easy to find a new home. One reason California is preferred by production companies is a 1988 California Supreme Court decision that exempts porn films from prostitution laws. This issue hasn’t been litigated in many states but thus far only NH offers the same protection.  For now, producers may just move next door but the same HIV advocates who got this law passed are trying to get voters county-wide to institute the same rule.  The mayor of one nearby town isn’t taking any chances, he is trying to put in an even stricter condom rule so filmmakers don’t see his community as an attractive alternative: “This is a family-oriented community and we don’t want them setting up their studios in Simi Valley.”

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HIV Rates in African-American Women Much Higher than Estimates Suggest

A new study by a national team of AIDS Experts called the HIV Prevention Trials Network found that the rate of new cases of HIV in African-American women was five times higher than previous estimates.  The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, is based on testing and analysis of “at-risk” women in six urban areas in the United States that are hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic. These include Baltimore, MD; Atlanta, GA; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Washington, DC; Newark, NJ; and New York City.

The study found that among 2,099 women ages 18 to 44 (88 percent of whom were black), 1.5 percent tested positive at the outset of the study, though they all thought they were negative. It further found a rate of new infection of 0.24 percent within a year of joining the study among those women who had been negative. This is shockingly similar to the new infection rate for several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Congo (0.28 percent) and Kenya (0.53 percent).

Researchers say that women account for roughly one-quarter of new HIV infections in the United States but even though black women constitute only 14 percent of women in the country, they account for 66 percent of these infections.  The CDC said in a statement: “African-American women do not engage in more risky behaviors than other women, [but] a complex range of social and environmental factors place them at greater risk for HIV.”  These include higher prevalence of HIV and other STDs in some black communities, limited access to health, possible financial dependence on male partners, and community stigma against HIV. To combat this, the CDC is launching a new campaign, Take Charge. Take the Test, aimed at black women.

Men More Likely to Die During Sex if They’re Cheating

It’s a pretty common plot line in movies and television; older man, younger women, vigorous sex and suddenly a man is dead in his mistress’s bed.  Turns out the writers of these shows might be on to something after all.  A new report from the American Heart Association found that married men having affairs are at an increased risk of dying suddenly during sex. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine examined the autopsy reports from about 6,000 sudden deaths.  They found that about .6 percent of these occurred during sex and 93 percent of “sex deaths” were thought to be during extra-marital sex.  The researchers speculate that being with a younger woman in an unfamiliar setting adds to the stress on the man’s heart. 

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