Government Accountability Office Advises Agency on Condom Information
October 20, 2006
On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office reminded the Department of Health and Human Services that STD prevention materials distributed by federally funded abstinence programs must "contain medically accurate information on condom effectiveness." The GAO, a watchdog agency, did not make any judgment regarding the accuracy of such literature, just that HHS ensures it.
The requirement about providing medically accurate information on condom effectiveness was part of an appropriations bill that passed in 2000. The Bush administration has maintained that materials prepared by abstinence-based programs, which received around $170 million in 2006, are not subject to the statute.
Wade Horn, assistant secretary for HHS' Administration for Children and Families, said, "We have no disagreement that abstinence education curricula should be medically accurate. In fact, we insist on it." The GAO opinion will have no effect on the literature, he said.
HHS believed the statute applied to other activities, such as CDC-supplied training materials, said Horn. A CDC fact sheet for public health personnel states: "For persons whose sexual behaviors place them at risk for STDs, correct and consistent use of the male latex condom can reduce the risk of STD transmission. However, no protective method is 100 percent effective." When used correctly, condoms are "highly effective" in preventing HIV and "can reduce the risk" of transmission of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, the CDC manual states.
LeAnna Benn, national director of Spokane, Wa.-based Teen-Aid, Inc., believes the GAO recommendation would not impact what is taught by abstinence programs. "I think there would be very little change in what had to be said based on medical referencing," she said.
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and other groups that allege abstinence education programs routinely exaggerate condom failure rates hailed the GAO opinion. For more information: www.gao.gov/decisions/other/308128.htm.
10.19.2006; Kevin Freking
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.