Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 11:46 pm
Sex and sanctimony
A Times Editorial
Published July 10, 2005
Public health science is clear: Condom use is an effective way to stop the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. That means condoms save lives as well as stop unwanted pregnancies. So why would anyone, least of all a doctor, want to discourage sexually active individuals from using condoms?
The doctor in this case is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a sanctimonious ideologue who is holding up confirmation of the acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner until that agency agrees to change condom labeling. Coburn wants the FDA to make condoms sound riskier than they really are, apparently to discourage use and push his abstinence agenda. Meanwhile, back in the real world, STDs remain a "major health threat in the United States," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 19-million infections yearly, half involving young people.
Coburn insisted that the National Institutes of Health issue a report on the subject, which it did four years ago. The report confirmed the efficacy of condoms in protecting against HIV and gonorrhea, but also noted that because of "inadequacies of the evidence available," it couldn't determine how well condoms worked against other STDs, though some degree of protection was noted in every study.
Coburn latched onto the uncertainty, as though it were proof of failure. Now he wants the FDA to require a condom label to proclaim not only the product's potential benefits but also its "lack of effectiveness in preventing STDs," according a Coburn spokesman.
Heather Boonstra with the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health, has been through this battle before and says Coburn and his allies are "manipulating this data to drive home their own anticondom, anticontraceptive message."
An obstetrician, Coburn has a spiteful edge that belies his medical training. Salon.com reported that at a Republican gathering last year, Coburn said the "gay agenda" was "the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today" and the source of "rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners."
Whatever his views on homosexuality, a doctor should know that promotion of condom use is a public health agenda. Here are the facts: When properly used, condoms reduce the chance of pregnancy from 85 percent without birth control to 3 percent over a year. The risk of HIV infection is greatly reduced - to less then 1 percent with condom use. The transmission of other STDs is also greatly diminished, and in no instance would a sexually active person be safer without using a condom.
Coburn's fellow senators should tell him that they won't put up with his rants when lives are at stake.
Link: http://sptimes.com/2005/07/10/Opinion/S ... mony.shtml
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