Groups Not Impressed by New Condom, HPV Study

WASHINGTON – A newly release study showing that condoms may provide ‘‘impressive’’ protection against a virus that causes cervical cancer has been criticized by Christian groups for its small participant population and lack of additional experiments supporting the findings.

“The research seems to be a valid study and all of the basics of the design of the study seems to be valid. What we are concerned about is this is a study following only 82 female university students; so this is a small population,” said Focus on the Family’s Analyst for Sexual Health, Linda Klepacki. “This type of study needs to be duplicated multiple times with larger populations in order to make these results truly valid.”

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday and is the first scientific proof that condoms provide women protection against the human papilloma virus, or HPV. The study is based on female college students – all virgins at the start – and examines the use of condom by the participants’ partner in comparison to participants’ infection with HPV.

Results show that women whose partners always wore a condom during intercourse were 70 percent less likely to become infected with HPV than those whose partners used protection less than 5 percent of the time.

The Washington-based Christian group Family Research Council agreed with FOTF that the size of the study population was too small and advocates for the adoption of risk elimination strategies.

“I would just like to point out that the size of the study was relatively small – 82 people – so I am sure that scientists will want to do follow research with a larger sample,” said FRC’s vice president for policy, Peter Sprigg. “Beyond that, the 70 percent is not very impressive if someone is interested in eliminating the risk. While we are happy to have this addition to our scientific knowledge, we believe it is time to move away from simply risk-reduction strategy and into risk elimination strategy when it comes to sexual health.

“We know that abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage when practiced by both partners virtually eliminates the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. So we feel that should be the primary method of prevention that the government and public health experts should be promoting.”

FOTF’s expert on sexual health also expressed concerns that the study did not accurately measure the “real life use of condoms,” pointing out that a group of female university students would presumably understand the importance of condom use in sexually activities outside of marriage and that the students knew that they were being studied.

Human papilloma virus is the most common sexually transmitted disease with an estimated 80 percent of young women becoming infected within five years of becoming sexually active or an estimated 630 million people worldwide. The virus can cause cervical cancer, genital warts and vaginal, vulvar, anal and penile cancers.

“When you support risk elimination you are truly eliminating all risk,” concluded FOTF’s Klepacki. “You do not have risk of pregnancy outside of marriage and you do not have the risk of sexually transmitted infection.”