House Members Send Letter to Tommy Thompson ‘Expressing Frustration’ About NIH Study on Condoms
Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), along with several other House members, have written a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson "expressing their frustration" over the recent NIH report that found there is insufficient data to prove that condoms are 100% effective against certain STDs (Bay Area Reporter, 7/26). The NIH report, which was released on July 20, stated that there is "insufficient evidence" that male latex condoms prevent transmission of "most" STDs beyond HIV and gonorrhea. Although the report "clear[ly]" supports condom use for preventing the spread of HIV and gonorrhea in males, it 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 Reproductive Health Report, 7/20). Pelosi and colleagues write in the letter that they are "particularly concerned" about certain "flaw[s]" in the report's development, such as the exclusion of several "important peer-reviewed papers" and other "relevant information," as well as information that became available after the NIH meeting convened to address the issue. They add that "[i]n certain instances where papers addressed more than one STD, information was included for one disease and not the other." The letter states that the NIH report "understates the strong epidemiologic evidence supporting condom effectiveness for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and herpes," and that "[u]ndermining the public's confidence in condoms" could lead to an increase in transmission of those diseases, as well as a rise in "risky behavior" and unintended pregnancies. The letter urges HHS to allow the Institute of Medicine to "investigate the science of condom effectiveness, including the role of condoms in reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancy and exposure to HIV and other STDs." The IOM report would then "make recommendations regarding the most appropriate public health approaches based on the best available science." The letter states that because the IOM is an independent organization, its review "will resolve questions about the role of condoms in reducing new STD infections that have been raised by those who oppose condom use on ideological grounds" (Pelosi letter, 7/24).
The Nation this week features a cover story on Pelosi, stating that she "is poised to become the most powerful woman in Congress." The Nation reports that Pelosi is "well positioned" to become House Democratic minority whip if Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) chooses to run for governor of Michigan. Pelosi has scored 100% voting records from Planned Parenthood and the AFL-CIO and has pushed for greater funding for international family planning and microbicide development efforts. If Pelosi rises to the position of minority whip, she "will immediately be a prime player in Democratic efforts to thwart Bush's legislative agenda," The Nation reports (Nichols, The Nation, 8/6).