About AIDS

Right wingers push lies about NIH condom study

Yes, the right wingers have struck again on one of their favorite

(Not!) topics: the condom. And as usual, the media have fallen right in line, reporting what was said as true, without bothering to check the easily available evidence for themselves.

In late July, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study on the effectiveness of condoms concluded that "male latex condoms can effectively reduce transmission of HIV/AIDS" and also gonorrhea, female to male, but that they couldn't speak to effectiveness with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Immediately, the conservatives - whose interest is not in protecting public health, but in controlling your personal (i.e., sex) life - began screaming, "See, condoms don't work! We told you so!" And the news media passed it on.

Actually, what the NIH said was that "evidence is currently insufficient to provide an accurate assessment of the effectiveness of condoms in preventing" other STDs. Studies are designed to answer very specific questions, and the studies referenced were limited in addressing the other STDs. It's not that condoms don't work; it's that other STDs haven't yet been researched. NIH pointedly said that this "should not be interpreted as proof of the adequacy or inadequacy of the condom to reduce the risk of STDs," and called for appropriate research.

No one will argue against abstinence as the most effective way to prevent STDs and pregnancies. However, to promulgate a lie like this is not only dishonest, it is potentially dangerous: Research demonstrates that if people (especially men) believe condoms don't work, they don't use them. They still have sex; they just don't wear a rubber. Now, there's a recipe for disaster.

To read the details for yourself, the report summary, "Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention," is available at www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/stds/condomreport.pdf.

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