Deadly misinformation from ABC News

This was the dangerously misleading ABC News headline (with byline & dateline):

Condoms Highly Effective Against HPV, Study Shows
One of the Most Prevalent STDs Can Be Prevented
By ANDREA CARTER, ABC News Medical Unit
June 21, 2006

That story falsly claims that condoms provide effective protection against HPV, the virus which causes cervical cancer. This was my comment, which has disappeared from the site:

Numerous studies have found no measurable protective effect of condoms against HPV, and this one small study found condoms to be only 70% effective for short term (8 month) protection against HPV, though it has been criticized for selection bias, since Winer, et al. made no attempt to identify the HPV status of the male sexual partners.

Absurdly, this article calls that "highly effective," and implies that women don't have to worry about HPV if they use condoms.

That's nonsense. Even 70% effectiveness over 8 months (the most optimistic result of any study to date) is equivalent to only about 50% effectiveness over 2 years, and less than 10% effectiveness over 10 years. The truth is that most woman who rely on condoms for long-term protection against HPV will contract HPV, eventually, no matter how careful they are.

What's more, the same study which found condoms 70% effective at short term protection against HPV, also found that a majority of the HPV infections which they documented were not only high-risk types of HPV, they were high-risk types of HPV which the new Gardasil vaccine does [little or] nothing to protect against.

The hard fact is that women who rely upon condoms or Gardasil (or both!) for protection against HPV will usually become infected anyhow, putting them at risk for cervical cancer later in life.

What's more, condoms have never been shown to fully eliminate risk of any STD. For diseases like HPV that are spread by skin-to-skin contact (rather than body fluids), condoms do little good. A landmark report by the National Institutes of Health found no conclusive evidence that condoms reduce transmission of chlamydia, trichomonas, genital herpes, chancroid, syphilis, female gonorrhea, or HPV.

Relying on condoms for STD protection is like playing Russian roulette with your health.


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