Abstinence education needed in addition to condom-package labeling

Some lawmakers are applauding the serious consideration the Bush administration is giving a policy that would require all condom packages to have labels, indicating that they fail to protect users from all sexually transmitted diseases. But other lawmakers continue to insist that the only real solution to STDs is abstinence education.

"This is not about social ideology, or religious ideology,” said Jo Ann Davis (R-Virginia) in debate. “It's about informing women [about potential illnesses]. ... And truly, the only way to be protected is abstinence. That's not ideology – it's fact."

What’s also fact is that the Bush administration is seeking to double federal spending on abstinence-education programs to $270 million.

Condom packages currently have labels, which indicate that condoms reduce the risk of AIDS and other STDs if properly used. But recent studies indicate condoms do not protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), a little-known but widespread disease that can cause genital warts or cervical cancer if it is untreated.

The incidence of HPV in the U.S. is significant. More than two million women in the U.S. are infected with the virus annually. Ten thousand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, claiming 4,000 lives. This issue is the driving force behind the need for new labeling.

The FDA has responded by preparing new guidelines on condom labeling. New warning labels have been a concern for the FDA since 2000, when President Bill Clinton asked the agency to examine whether condom-package information accurately reflected the effectiveness of condoms in preventing all STDs.

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