- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

A group of physicians yesterday called for the resignation of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because the agency has failed to tell "the whole truth" about condoms.

"The CDC has known about the ineffectiveness of condoms for at least a decade," the Physicians Consortium said in a letter to President Bush released yesterday.

Yet the CDC has chosen to rely on "unproven theoretical models and unrealistic laboratory testing" to maintain its claims that condoms can protect against most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), said Rep. Dave Weldon, Florida Republican and former Rep. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, both practicing physicians who support the consortium's efforts.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now shown that "condoms offer extremely limited benefit to our patients," the doctors said.

They asked the White House to replace Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, CDC director, with "fresh and bold leadership." They further asked that condom labels and all publicly funded health materials and Web sites be rewritten to reflect "the clinical science on condom effectiveness."

CDC officials declined to discuss calls for Dr. Koplan's resignation but said in a statement that the NIH study "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."

According to the Physicians Consortium, which is based in Harrisburg, Pa., and claims to have 2,000 members, the NIH study found that condoms offer 85 percent risk reduction for HIV/AIDS, and "some risk reduction" for gonorrhea for men, but not for women.

The NIH study found "no clinical proof" that condoms stopped the spread of chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes, human papillomavirus, chancroid or trichomoniasis, said Dr. John R. Diggs Jr., a member of the consortium's executive committee.

Dr. Vanessa Cullins of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, agreed that the NIH study showed that research on condoms "is limited" and "some studies are inconclusive." She recommended Congress request "actual new research on condom efficacy."

However, she said the NIH study "confirms what we have known all along: Condoms are still one of the best methods we have to prevent the spread of , while abstinence from intercourse remains the most effective method."

Dr. William S. Gilmer, president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, said that using the NIH report to bash condoms was irresponsible, because even the authors of the report said it wasn't designed to be "proof of the adequacy or inadequacy" of condoms.

"Research shows that when used correctly and consistently, the male latex condom reduces the risk of HIV and other STDs, period," said Dr. Gilmer.

"I think telling young people that condoms will help, even though it's not 100 percent, will give them a false sense of confidence" and lead to more sexual risk-taking, said Dr. Alieta Eck of Somerset, N.J., and a member of the Physicians Consortium.

"This is not a religious message," she added. "It's a medical message."

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