The news reports gush with excitement. For the first time, scientists have proof
that condoms offer women protection against the virus that causes cervical cancer. This virus is the human papilloma virus, or HPV.
What kind of proof about condoms
and HPV does this study offer? Well, the
three-year study of 82 college women found that those whose partners used condoms 100% of
the time were 70% less likely to become infected.
In fact, the study reports that 12
out of 42 women whose partners always used condoms did get HPV. Thus, 28.5% of the women got HPV even with 100%
condom use. Why isnt the fact that
condoms, even under ideal usage conditions, failed 28.5% of the time the real story here? Who would consider this an acceptable failure rate
when dealing with a cancer-causing virus?
For those who are still impressed
by the 70% less infection rate, remember that with only 82 women, the sample
size is so small that the results have very little statistical significance.
If this study is proof of anything, it is proof that
condoms do not provide satisfactory protection against HPV.
That was the position taken by supporters of the abstinence-only
approach in the first place. This study
certainly does not challenge their position.