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Report: Condoms Do Prevent Some STDs

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"Condoms prevent the most dangerous STD, HIV, and the most easily transmitted STD, gonorrhea, [so] condom promotion is an important thing to continue to do," he says.

In addition, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that came out too late to be included in the report showed that condoms were effective at preventing the transmission of herpes, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Campbell Gardett tells WebMD. This study would have been included in the report, if there had been time.

Tom Coburn, MD, a former member of Congress who requested the panel review condom effectiveness, has publicly questioned their effectiveness in preventing the spread of disease.

Coburn argues that the government has been promoting "an unsubstantiated claim that promiscuity can be safe. ... This report," he says, "finally exposes the 'safe' sex myth for the lie that it is."

Abstinence until marriage and a mutually monogamous relationship are the only ways to prevent the spread of STDs, says Coburn, who is on the board of the pro-abstinence group Family Research Council. The Family Research Council agrees with Coburn, spokeswoman Heather Cirmo tells WebMD.

Panel member Shacker says, "I would have to say that [Coburn] didn't understand the report."

The Bush administration did not return phone calls from WebMD, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC appear unlikely to make any radical policy changes as a result of the report.

The CDC will continue to advise that the "surest protection from STDs is sexual abstinence and mutually monogamous relations." But it adds that for those who are sexually active "condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in protecting against HIV and can reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases."

"A lot of what's in this report, you sort of know already," a source at HHS tells WebMD. "I don't think it surprises anyone or changes anything."

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