At the recent meeting of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research in Amsterdam, a team of scientists from the University of Washington presented evidence that consistent condom use reduces young women’s risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV). Researchers followed 123 college-aged women for an average of 22 months, collecting electronic diaries in which women charted their sexual behavior and condom use, and testing the women for HPV every four months. The study, entitled “The Effect of Consistent Condom Use on the Risk of Genital HPV Infection Among Newly Sexually Active Young Women,” found that women who used condoms 100 percent of the time were 70 percent less likely to contract HPV than women who used condoms only 5 percent of the time, according to Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report.
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford calling for the FDA to examine recent research on HPV and condoms, particularly this study, before requiring condom labels to state that condoms do not prevent HPV infection. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and other lawmakers, as well as conservative interest groups, have previously petitioned the FDA to require condom labels to state that they were not effective against all forms of sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV. Coburn placed a hold on Crawford’s nomination in an attempt to guarantee such labeling, but lifted the hold last month, citing a promise by the FDA to enact tougher requirements for condom labels. In his letter, Waxman took a stance against these conservatives, writing that “The new study, combined with previous evidence, seriously undermines the call by some conservative organizations and lawmakers for labeling that warns consumers that condoms do not protect against HPV.”