Congress Hears Testimony That Condoms Do Not Prevent Some STDs


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported to the US Congress last week that condoms are not generally effective in preventing the spread of some sexually transmitted diseases.

The CDC witness, Dr. Ed Thompson, told the US House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources that "HPV (human papilloma virus) infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection for both men and women in the United States" and that "about 80% of sexually active men and women will have acquired HPV by age 50."

Thompson, CDC Deputy Director for Public Health Services, said "in contrast to many STDs, there is no effective cure for genital HPV" and that "abstaining from sexual activity…is the surest way to prevent infection. For those who choose to be sexually active, a monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the strategy most likely to prevent genital HPV infections." Congress called the hearing to explore HPV and its strong ties to cervical cancer and to look into possible changes in federal regulations regarding condom labeling.

Former House member and medical doctor Tom A. Coburn testified that "a growing library of scientific data demonstrated that HPV was linked to a number of serious health conditions, with over 99 percent of all cervical cancers associated with HPV infection. Likewise, scientific data concluded that condoms provided no protection against HPV infection." Coburn charged that "regardless of these scientific findings and recommendations" until recently, the CDC has ignored them and has "continued to focus almost exclusively on promoting condom use and regular PAP tests."

Coburn said, "As an HPV prevention message, however, this approach was designed to fail, as it has. Promoting condom use did nothing to control the rampant spread of HPV since condoms cannot prevent HPV infection…[and] while I repeatedly asked the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to educate the public about HPV…both…continued to maintain that condoms do prevent HPV."

While Coburn's efforts eventually led to legislation on public education of HPV, which was signed into law in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001, he said that "only after pressure was applied to CDC by this Subcommittee and other Congressional offices, did the agency finally issue the HPV prevention report on January 30, 2004…[which] finally acknowledges that the CDC's long held positions on HPV and condoms were incorrect." As such he called for "continued oversight by this Subcommittee…to ensure that CDC and FDA fully comply with the federal HPV prevention and education law…this includes promoting the value of delaying sexual debut and avoiding promiscuity."

As a result, the FDA said they are looking into labeling condoms with warnings that they may not be effective in protecting against some STDs. The FDA also said that they are "preparing new guidance on condom labeling to address these issues" and are "exploring new opportunities to best inform condom users about important limitations of the device." The FDA said they anticipate "proposing to amend the classification regulations for condoms." The proposal for new condom labeling is expected later this year.


Austin Ruse. "Congress Hears Testimony That Condoms Do Not Prevent Some STDs." Culture of Life Foundation (March 16, 2004).

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Austin Ruse is president of the Culture of Life Foundation. He follows the UN closely. Austin Ruse welcomes comments at

Copyright © 2004 Culture of Life Foundation

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