11 November 2005

FDA Condom Warning Regs

The FDA is considering new warning labels on condoms. They would state that condoms work less well at stopping HPV and herpes than other STDs, and would claim that nonoxynol-9, a spermicide commonly used to lubricate condoms should not be used to stop HIV, since it can irritate the vagina or rectum (according to a not on the website AP story from the Denver Post . . grr).

This is a bad idea. The bottom line is that condoms prevent pregnancy effectively (although not as effectively as the pill or IUDs) and that barrier methods prevent STDs generally far more effectively than unprotected sex. The plan is basically a politically driven effort driven by Christians who want to push abstinance only approaches to sex education because they are opposed to sex outside marriage generally. They want to use HPV as an argument against condom use, and have been trying to stop a 100% effective vaccine against HPV because it would undermine this effort.

It also creates the misleading impression that unprotected sex is a better way to prevent AIDs than a condom with nonoxynol-9. This is grossly incorrect. Any condom significantly prevents HIV. One without nonoxynol-9 might be marginally better. Certainly, it wouldn't hurt to allow nonoxynol-9 free condoms to claim that they are more effective against HIV than an ordinary condom, which promotes the message in a non-deceptive way. But, requiring warning labels to lead to false inferences is bad public health policy.


Vestal Vespa said...

It may be bad public health policy, but good public health policy always takes a backseat to the "abstinence only" message for these people. Have a look at my place for the lowdown on the HPV vaccine. The religous right is willing to force thousands of women to suffer and die of cervical cancer, rather than approve a vaccine that might cause women to have more (and safer) sex.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Thanks. I add a link to your post to the main entry.