Right Diagnosis, Wrong Remedy

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Courtland Milloy's April 2 column, "Ignorance Is Bliss, and Then You Get an STD," roared out of the box with truths rarely seen in print. But then it inexplicably devolved into an endorsement of the failed, condom-based approach to sex education championed by former surgeon general Joycelyn Elders.

Mr. Milloy is properly alarmed at the millions of annual infections involving the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. But he does not mention the crucial research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that condoms provide some protection against sexually transmitted diseases but have not been proved as effective against HPV:

"Because HPV is so common and usually invisible, the only sure way to prevent it is not to have sex. Even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV, if their partner was infected with HPV. Condoms (used all the time and the right way) may lower your chances of passing HPV to a partner or developing HPV-related diseases. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom -- so condoms may not fully protect against HPV."

It's time for everyone to face reality about how HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases are being spread to unsuspecting teens.

ROBERT KNIGHT

Director, Culture and Media Institute

Media Research Center

Alexandria

The writer is on the advisory board of the Abstinence Clearinghouse.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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