CDC's 'Safe Sex' Campaign, Stressing Condom Use, a Failure, Physicians Allege

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com) - Two physicians' groups representing some 10,000 doctors nationwide are calling for the director of the Centers for Disease Control to step down because of the CDC's "safe sex" campaign that allegedly masked the deficiencies of condom use and withheld information about those deficiencies from the American public.

The Catholic Medical Association, with a membership of 8,000, and the Physicians Consortium, with a membership of 2000, accuse the CDC of failing to curb the spread of venereal disease, including AIDS.

During a Tuesday news conference on Capitol Hill, former Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn, a practicing physician and spokesman for the Physicians Consortium, wondered why it is, "that over the last 15 years we have seen such a tremendous increase in sexually transmitted diseases."

According to Coburn, part of the problem lies with the safe-sex message preached by the CDC.

"As a matter of fact, it (safe-sex campaign) has compounded it (the problem), if you look at it from a purely statistical perspective," he said.

According to data provided by Coburn and other members of the Physician's Consortium, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have discovered that condoms are ineffective in preventing genital herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and gonorrhea in women.

The NIH study, however, does show that condoms have some effectiveness among men. Coburn and others claim NIH's data underscores what they believe is the CDC's irresponsibility in providing the public with accurate information about condoms.

"Condoms work 85 percent of the time on HIV; there is nobody that denies that," Coburn said. "That means a one in six chance that if you have intercourse with someone who is HIV infected, that you are going to get infected.

"How many people want to take a one in six chance to get HIV?" he asked. "They don't!"

The reason condom use is somewhat ineffective, Coburn said, is that "nobody uses them perfectly, so at their best, that's what their relative risk is, 85 percent. That is -- provided that people use them (condoms) perfectly, and in most studies, they didn't use them perfectly."

The Physicians Consortium believes the CDC has placed too much emphasis on HIV prevention and, as a result, efforts to stop the spread of other venereal diseases have suffered.

"The CDC has placed all of its eggs in the AIDS basket, which truly is a major health threat, but it has done so at the expense of all other STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)," said Dr. Hal Wallis, a Physicians Consortium spokesman, in a statement.

Coburn charges that the CDC is covering up the limited effectiveness of condoms out of fear that if Americans learn the facts, they will become even more sexually reckless.

However, according to Coburn, "the American public are smart enough to have the information, and then make decisions based upon that information. We should not be making decisions in Washington, withholding information, because people might make the wrong choice.

"What I am saying is ... please use condoms, but tell them the whole truth, and give them all of the information, so they can make a decision," Coburn said. "What they (the CDC) are saying is that they (the American public) are so dumb that they can't handle the information about the true effectiveness of condoms, not just with HIV."

"This has all of the earmarks of a good old-fashioned medical cover-up," said Dr. John R. Diggs, Jr., a spokesman for the group, in a statement.

Coburn claims that the CDC is violating a law he introduced, one signed by President Bill Clinton in November 2000. That law requires all public health information disseminated by the CDC and other federal agencies to be medically accurate.

"There is a law that says that they (the CDC) have to be medically accurate," Coburn said. However, the CDC website contains "medically inaccurate information," he added.

"Condom packaging and most educational materials and websites promoting 'safe sex' continue to make the claim that condoms are 98 percent effective against HIV/AIDS and other STDs," Wallis said in a statement. "It is now clear that all of this material must be revised to reflect the facts."

The Physicians Consortium wants the CDC to require that the limitations of condom use be printed on all condom packages, in the same manner as the Surgeon General's warning on tobacco and alcohol products.

The group believes the CDC has made conscious efforts to delay or alter a National Institutes of Health (NIH) document on the problems associated with condom use. According to a Physicians Consortium report, the CDC demanded that an unproven theoretical model be added to allegedly weaken the NIH report.

"The addition of this hypothetical model not only weakens the scientific basis of the NIH document as originally conceived, but adds unwarranted confusion and misinformation to what otherwise is a clear-cut repudiation of condom effectiveness," the Physicians Consortium stated.

The group has asked Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director of the CDC, to resign because of his handling of the condom issue.

"Our patients and fellow physicians deserve better from the federal government. Therefore, we plead with you to ask for the resignation of the director of the CDC," the Physicians Consortium wrote in a letter to President Bush.

"Only with fresh and bold leadership at the CDC, dedicated to primary prevention as opposed to social ideology, can we, as a country, start moving toward genuine sexual health," the group said.

The CDC declined to comment publicly on the charges leveled by the Physician's Consortium, and instead issued a press release defending the use of condoms.

"The NIH report on condom effectiveness provides a great service in validating the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing transmission of HIV, the deadliest sexually transmitted disease," the CDC statement reads. "[The] report doesn't say condoms are ineffective. It says the evidence is only fully sufficient only for HIV and gonorrhea, and for other STDs more research is needed."

The CDC did not respond to calls for Koplan to step down.

Planned Parenthood declared that it, like the CDC, would continue to support the use of condoms.

"Planned Parenthood encourages responsible sexual behavior and we offer the education, information, and medical services Americans need to help them manage their sexual health," the group said.

"We will continue to urge our patients to use condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancy and HIV transmission, and communicate our knowledge that condom use is acknowledged to offer some protection against the transmission of sexual infection and disease," the group added.