Public Health Officials Worry That Report on Condoms Will Dissuade People From Using Them
Public health officials are concerned that a new NIH report "could deter some people from using" condoms because of its conclusion that condoms may not prevent some STDs, the Washington Post reports. The report, which was formally released by HHS on Friday, states that condoms "have been proven effective" at preventing transmission of HIV and male gonorrhea, but adds that "research so far was inconclusive" on whether they also prevent transmission of syphilis, herpes, chlamydia and some other infections (Okie, Washington Post, 7/21). The 30-page report, which grew out of a June 2000 meeting of officials from the NIH, CDC, FDA and USAID, concludes that more research is needed to determine whether condom use can effectively protect against transmission of human papillomavirus, chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis and genital herpes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/20). Edward Hook, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama and a member of the panel that drafted the report, said he fears that "misunderstanding of the report's conclusions could dissuade" some sexually active people from using condoms, adding that this would be a "very dangerous" result. Willard Cates, president of Family Health International, a not-for-profit group that has conducted research on condoms and other birth-control methods, added, "The data clearly show that condoms ... prevent HIV, the most severe sexually transmitted infection, and gonorrhea, the most easily transmitted infection. ... We should push them." Cates added that the lack of research data on condoms' effectiveness at preventing other STDs "does not mean that they are ineffective against those diseases," since studies have shown that viruses do not pass through latex condoms. But J. Thomas Fitch, a Texas pediatrician who also served on the report's panel, said that "people cannot assume that using a condom will protect them from all STDs," adding that the only way to have total protection is to abstain from sexual activity until marriage (Washington Post, 7/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.