Physicians, Politicians Seek CDC Chief’s Resignation
Saying that the "failure of public health efforts to prevent the STD epidemic in America is related to the CDC's 'safe-sex' promotion and its attempts to withhold from the American people the truth of condom ineffectiveness," physician groups and members of Congress yesterday called for the "immediate resignation" of CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan and urged the FDA to require condom labeling that "reflects the clinical science on condom effectiveness." The Physicians Consortium, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based group representing 2,000 doctors nation-wide; the Catholic Medical Association; former Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) called the conference in response to a NIH report released Friday that said that data does not sufficiently show that condoms are 100% effective in preventing the spread of various STDs, including chlamydia, syphilis and human papillomavirus. The groups said that the CDC "hid and misrepresented vital medical information" showing that condoms do not fully protect against STD transmission, adding, "Our greatest concern is for the millions of our patients and their families who have suffered from this policy of cover-up and deception." In addition, they called the CDC's actions "in direct and intentional violation of a federal law (P.L. 106-554)" passed last year that requires federal agencies to "communicate medically accurate information to the public and to enforce the use of medically accurate information." The groups also asked HHS to withdraw federal funding from all agencies whose educational and promotional materials do not comply with the required use of medically accurate information and called for a congressional hearing "on the scandal of the CDC's cover-up of information vital to women's health" (Physicians Consortium joint statement, 7/24).
Coburn, who led the conference, said that the issue is "not about lessening the effort to stop HIV," nor is it a debate between conservatives and liberals, but rather the issue is about the need for "accurate information" so that Americans may make informed decisions about their sexual behaviors. He added that while condom use may decrease the risk of HIV transmission, the method is only truly effective when used "perfectly" and "nobody uses condoms perfectly," he said. Although the report stated that data do show condoms are effective in reducing the risk of HIV transmission, having protected sex with an HIV-positive partner still bears a one-in-six risk of viral transmission, Coburn stated. Dr. John Diggs, member of the Executive Committee of the Physicians Consortium, said that the report's results have "implications" for students who receive contraception and contraceptive information from school clinics and for Africans who battle an alarming rate of HIV on their continent (Laura Menge, California Healthline, 7/25).
In a statement, the CDC responded that the NIH report "doesn't say condoms are ineffective -- it says the evidence is fully sufficient only for HIV and gonorrhea, and for other STDs, more research is needed" (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 7/25). The agency "continues to advise that the surest protection from STDs is sexual abstinence and mutually monogamous relations with an uninfected partner." But "for other people who are sexually active, male latex condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in protecting against HIV and can reduce the risk of other STDs," the agency added (Stein, Reuters, 7/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.