Study: Even with 100 % Condom Use 30% Still Contract Potentially Deadly HPV Virus

Tue Jun 27, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST

By Gudrun Schultz

SEATTLE, Washington, June 27, 2006 ( - A new study on condom effectiveness in protecting against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus has shown a discrediting 30% failure rate. The report, however,Âis being praised as a breakthrough for its claim that condom use offers “significant” protection against the virus.

The study relied on the journals of 82 female university students who kept daily records of their sexual behaviour, and found that 70% of the women, who reported 100% consistent condom use, were virus-free at the end of three years.

The Illinois Family Institute criticized news reports of the study as misleading and inaccurate, saying the 30 per cent failure rate was far more important information than the limited success of the study.

“In fact, the study reports that 12 out of 42 women whose partners always used condoms did get HPV. Thus, 28.5% of the women got HPV even with 100% condom use,” said William Beckman, executive director of Illinois Right to Life Committee.

“Why isn’t the fact that condoms, even under ideal usage conditions, failed 28.5% of the time the real story here? Who would consider this an acceptable failure rate when dealing with a cancer-causing virus?”

Furthermore, Beckman points out, the study itself is inconclusive since it relies on the self-reporting of just 82 university-aged women.

“For those who are still impressed by the “70% less” infection rate, remember that with only 82 women, the sample size is so small that the results have very little statistical significance.”

The author of the study, Rachel Winer of the University of Washington in Seattle, attempted to explain the 30% infection rate which occurred despite supposedly consistent condom use by suggesting that women may have “misreported” key elements in the study, reported the New Scientist, a suggestion that alone calls into question the legitimacy of the study’s findings.

Among those applauding the report was Markus Steiner of Family Health International in Research Triangle Park, NC, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary. He told the New Scientist that the research should put an end to calls for FDA warnings against condom failures in protecting against HPV, by groups advocating abstinence.

“We’re hoping the findings of the paper will dissipate this pressure,” he said.

Beckman responded to such suggestions by saying, “If this study is proof of anything, it is proof that condoms do not provide satisfactory protection against HPV. That was the position taken by supporters of the abstinence-only approach in the first place. This study certainly does not challenge their position.”

Read Illinois Family Institute press release:


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