Condoms Highly Effective Against HPV, Study Shows

ByABC News
June 21, 2006, 2:02 PM

June 21, 2006 — -- College junior Kelsey Innis knows the facts about sexually transmitted diseases but finds that many students don't.

"There's an attitude of real fear out there that doesn't breed knowledge," said Innis, who is also a sexual health peer educator at the University of Texas in Austin.

Slowing the spread of one of the nation's most prevalent STDs among college students -- the human papilloma virus, or HPV -- requires knowing how the virus is prevented. That has been somewhat of a mystery -- until now.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that consistent condom use can prevent the spread of HPV in up to 70 percent of cases, giving Innis and other health educators better proof that condoms can prevent HPV, helping to dispel any myths that they are not effective.

"It's the first study to nail home the point that condoms prevent against HPV transmission," said Peter A. Leone, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study, conducted at the University of Washington, tracked the sexual activity of 82 female students between the ages of 18 to 22. Women whose partners used condoms 100 percent of the time were 70 percent less likely to be infected by HPV compared with those that used them 5 percent of the time.

Even using condoms over half of the time decreased their risk by 50 percent, researchers said.

Doctors and educators recommend condoms to prevent HPV transmission even though previous studies have not shown exactly how effective they really are.

This study was different because it started with young women who had not been sexually active and followed them over a period of time, according to the study's author, Rachel Winer, a researcher at the University of Washington.

Also, the women submitted diaries documenting their daily sexual activity and condom use online that provided more accurate, and perhaps truthful, information.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6.2 million Americans are infected with HPV each year. There are more than 100 subtypes of HPV, about 30 of which infect the genital tract. The virus spreads through contact, infecting skin cells.