Fourteen Democratic House members on Wednesday sent a letter to Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson accusing HHS and the Bush administration of "playing politics" by deleting key information from a new fact sheet on condoms posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site, the Los Angeles Times reports. Instructions on how to properly use condoms and data from studies showing that making condoms available to young people does not result in their having sex at an earlier age have been removed from the new fact sheet despite having appeared on the CDC Web site in the past. "The apparent purpose of these alterations and deletions is to remove information that conflicts with the Administration's preference for 'abstinence-only' programs," stated the letter.
The new fact sheet, which was posted on December 2, does say that condoms can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted disease. But it adds, "No protective method is 100% effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD." In the past, the fact sheet said abstinence was the only guaranteed way to prevent HIV and STD infections but mentioned the use of condoms as a "highly effective" way for sexually active people to protect themselves.
"I think this is an Orwellian trend at HHS," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who signed the letter. "Information that used to be based on science is being systematically removed from the public."
David Fleming, deputy director for science at the CDC, defended the Bush administration's actions. He said the CDC chose a "more neutral" approach for the condom fact sheet because there is "mixed evidence" on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV and STD infections. "This fact sheet is designed to be as scientifically accurate as possible," he said. "We specifically tried not to nuance it in the direction of either encouraging or discouraging use of condoms."