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HPV Condom Study Shows The Failure of Condom Education

LifeSiteNews.com

Special to LifeSiteNews.com by Dale O’Leary

June 30, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - “Study demonstrates failure of condom education.” That is a headline you didn’t read in your local paper although it accurately describes the results of a study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (Winer, June 22, 2006). Instead the headline in at least one paper reads “Condoms protect against cervical cancer.” The subhead is a little more restrained: “When condoms are used effectively, a study shows they can help prevent the spread of human papilloma virus” (HPV).

Most people would assume for example, that “prevent” means zero infections, but what the study actually found was that if 100 women used condoms 100% of the time for one year, 37 would be infected with HPV. Admittedly that is better than the results for the 100 women who used condoms 5% or less of the time; 89 of these would be infected.

What the news story failed to mention, however,Âis that if 100 women used condoms 5% to 49% of the time, there would be 159 infections. In other words some women would have multiple infections.Â
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  How, you may ask, are women who at least use condoms some of the time twice as likely to be infected as those who use condoms rarely or never? The answer probably lies in the psychology of condom use. Those who have reason to believe that their partners are not infected are more likely to discontinue condom use altogether, whereas those who perceive some risk are more likely to insist on condom use, at least some of the time.
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  The study actually supports this strategy. Among the women who believed that their male partner had no previous sexual partners, there were no HPV infections. This is understandable since, if the male was not infected, he could not infect the woman.
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  On the other hand, theÂinfection rateÂfor the 100 women who had more than one new partner was 224, more than 2 infections per woman. The more sexual partners a woman has the greater the chance one of them will infect her.Â
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  The really bad news for the condom advocates is the percentage of women in the study who used a condom 100% of time. The 82 women included in the report were smart enough to get into college, prudent enough to arrive as virgins, concerned enough to enter a study, willing to record their sexual behavior every two weeks in an electronic diary, and health conscious enough to submit to regular exams. They undoubtedly were instructed in condom use and its importance, and the dangers of sexually transmitted infections, particularly cancer-causing HPV. This is the very best case scenario for condom education.
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  Therefore, the fact that in only 25% of the 164 eight month periods included in the study did the women report using condoms 100% of the time proves that condom education doesn’t work.
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  The article does not report on the behavior and infections for the 82 women for the entire follow-up period which averaged 33.9 months, but rather reported on behavior and infections in eight month segments. Therefore, we don’t know the percentage of women infected at least once at the end of the study.
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  Neither do we know from the article the percentage of the 82 women who used condoms 100% of the time for the entire study. It could be that 21 women used a condom every time. It is more likely that a larger number (but less than 50%) started out using a condom every time and then used condoms less frequently during subsequent eight month periods. What we do know is that using condoms less that 100% of the time is high risk behavior particularly if one has multiple sexual partners.Â
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  The study does not discuss the relationship between abstinence and HPV infection, because its authors know that abstinence offers 100% protection. The authors do report that 60 women initially recruited for the study were not included in the report because they did not engage in sexual activity.
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  In addition, the article includes only the data from the 164 eight month periods in which the women were sexually active. It does not report the number of eight month periods in which the women were abstinent, because of course during those periods there was no risk of a new HPV infection. While it is difficult to extrapolate that information from the other data, it is possible that the women in the study were abstinent during at least half of the eight month reporting periods. It would be nice to have the data on this.
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  The authors warn those who think the problem will be solved by the new HPV vaccine that the vaccine protects against only 4 of the scores of HPV strains.
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  We can assume that those pushing condom education and trying to de-fund abstinence education will use this study to prove condoms education works, when in fact what it really demonstrates is that abstinence works and even under optimum conditions encouraging women to use condoms puts them at risk.

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