- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

A House Republican leader has charged two federal agencies with failing to provide aggressive public education about a sexually transmitted disease linked to cervical cancer.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have been asked to appear at a Jan. 28 hearing to discuss issues pertaining to the human papillomavirus (HPV), said aides with the House Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources.

“We are deeply concerned whenever a federal agency fails to abide by the law, but especially so when the public’s health is threatened,” said Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican and subcommittee chairman.

Under a law signed by President Clinton in 2000, the CDC was to issue a report by this past Sunday on the best strategies to prevent the spread of HPV, a virus linked to cervical cancer. HPV is often called genital warts.

Separately, the FDA was to re-examine condom labels to ensure that they are “medically accurate” concerning their ability to block transmission of diseases, including HPV.

Neither agency has complied with these legal mandates, Mr. Souder said.

CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said yesterday that the agency was completing its HPV report and would issue it in January. The CDC has posted HPV information on its Web site and given HPV presentations to health care workers, she said.

“The FDA has also undertaken enormous review of the literature related to prevention of [sexually transmitted diseases], and are evaluating the labeling issue,” said an FDA spokeswoman.

HPV is a concern because of its large infection rates — an estimated 20 million people in the United States have HPV and another 5.5 million become infected each year — and its link to cervical cancer. HPV is believed to be the primary cause of the cancer, which is diagnosed in 12,000 women a year and takes the lives of 4,100 women.

Moreover, HPV is a complicated disease. It is incurable, but only a few of the many HPV strains are cancer-related. This means that HPV infections are often benign.

On the other hand, most women are unaware of their HPV infection or its links to cancer until they receive an abnormal Pap test.

The Eagle Forum and other groups have urged Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson to highlight HPV education, “including the fact that condoms do not provide effective protection against infection.”

Tamara Kreinin, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, called yesterday for more education about all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

“I don’t think we, in any way, want to do anything that will frighten people from using condoms or going to the doctor and getting tested,” said Miss Kreinin. “The bottom-line message always needs to be that most STDs are treatable and it’s important to get tested … early.”

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