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Latex Condoms Offer Best Protection Against STIs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) today urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that the proposed changes to condom labeling do not mislead sexually active individuals or prevent them from using condoms. The public comment period closed today.

"All scientists agree that latex condoms are the best form of protection against sexually transmitted infections for people who are sexually active," said Karen Pearl, interim president of PPFA. "It is critical that condom labels reflect science, not scare tactics."

At the insistence of anti-choice, anti-family planning Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the FDA was mandated by Congress to reexamine whether condom labels are medically accurate regarding condoms' overall effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While PPFA believes the FDA should strive to improve accuracy and truth in labeling, politicians should not force the FDA to endanger public health by overemphasizing condom imperfection.

"In addition to reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections, condoms are an effective, inexpensive way to prevent pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion," said Pearl. "Rather than focusing on fear, politicians should focus on prevention."

The final decision on condom labeling must be medically accurate and easy for the general public to understand. In today's letter to the FDA, PPFA strongly encouraged the agency to make sure science, not ideology, is the standard for any changes made to condom labels.

PPFA's primary concern is that the proposed label changes lack a balanced approach to communicating the benefits of condoms for STI prevention and protection against pregnancy. While condoms provide less protection against STIs that are transmissible by contact outside the area covered by a condom, recent evidence finds that consistent condom use is associated with lower infection rates of herpes simplex virus-21, that condoms significantly reduce the risk of HPV transmission among women2, and that regression of HPV lesions in women and men is accelerated by condom use3. In addition, the labeling changes omit "perfect use" data for condom use in pregnancy prevention, instead opting to list "typical use" statistics that only account for couples who don't use a condom correctly or for every act of intercourse.

1) Anna Wald et al. 2005. "The Relationship between Condom Use and Herpes Simplex Virus Acquisition." Annals of Internal Medicine, 143, 707-713.

2) Winer R.L. et al. "The effect of consistent condom use on the risk of genital HPV infection among new sexually active young women." Poster presented at the 16th meeting of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, July 2005.

3) C.G. Maaike et al. 2003. "Condom Use Promotes Regression of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia and Clearance of Human Papillomavirus: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Condom Use Promotes Regression of Human Papillomavirus-Associated Penile Lesions in Male Sexual Partners of Women with Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia." International Journal of Cancer, 107, 811-816 & 804-81.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


Erin Kiernon, 202-973-4973
Erin Libit, 202-973-4883


May 12, 2014