By Tim Bloedow
The Interim

“Condom use is the best ways to combat sexually transmitted disease.” While this is definitely not the kind of message one would expect in a pro-life publication, it is no more shocking than reading that condoms are a useless defence against sexually transmitted disease in a mainstream publication such as the National Post. But that’s what you would have read on the Sept. 6 editorial page of that national newspaper.

On Sept. 5, the Journal of the Canadian Medial Association published a study, “Survey of HPV in Ontario Women,” which revealed that at least one in five women between the ages of 15 and 24 has the human papillomavirus, which is a sexually transmitted disease. According to Dr. Alice Lytwyn of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, women have a 75 per cent chance of contracting HPV at some point in their lives.

The concern over HPV is that it is strongly linked to cervical cancer, the killer of 400 women per year in Canada and 500,000 women worldwide. Canada sees 1,300 new cases diagnosed each year. HPV is believed to be responsible for 90 per cent of those cases.

The Ontario study, and the editorial in the National Post, as well as one in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, noted the uselessness of condoms in preventing HPV. The point was not lost on these papers that this revelation is a serious threat to the establishment mantra of “safe sex.”

“To read this report critically and rationally is to reach at least two conclusions. Firstly, when it comes to the spread of human papillomavirus, promiscuous sexual behaviour is extremely risky and, therefore, unadvisable for women,” wrote the editor of the Record.“Women who want to be absolutely safe will either be abstinent or truly monogamous.”

The Post wrote that “epidemiology would suggest it is dangerous to continue touting condoms as a suitable safeguard.” Raising concerns as to whether or not Health Canada is aptly named, it noted that Health Minister Allan Rock’s department publishes a sex-ed booklet for teens, which claims to offer help for “a healthy and safe life.” One page teaches that “the condom prevents STD.” “That now appears to be perilous advice,” noted the Post.

Although pro-family forces rejoice at the coverage of the recent HPV study and the intellectual honesty of these publications, frustration exists that such coverage is so rare, despite the fact that the reliability of condoms has long been open to question, especially as a defence against the HIV and AIDS.

Peter Stock, national affairs director for the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC), told The Interim that “this is just further evidence of what we’ve been saying all along: the only safe sex is sex within marriage. Extra-marital relations, even with condoms, will eventually result in disease and illegitimate pregnancy.”

The condom has become synonymous with the safe-sex message over the past few years despite the medical evidence that it isn’t the reliable barrier against contracting disease that its advocates claim it to be. HPV can be transmitted through intimate physical contact even prior to penetration, say the experts.

It may be too much to hope for in the short term that another study and some positive media coverage will cause the tide to turn in terms of the current “safe-sex” message: there are high political stakes involved as well as the desire of many people to enjoy the false security of the “safe-sex” message for their own “lifestyles.” But change is possible, say pro-family activists.

“Socialist parties, such as the governing Liberals, will certainly support [the sex ed] agenda for ideological reasons,” says Mr. Stock, “but there is plenty of reason for optimism because Canadians can change governments and shut this harmful campaign down.”

Perhaps the greatest hope that this new information could contribute to change is in the fact that the message can be framed in the popular “women’s rights” rhetoric. This is possible because, as Dr. David Hager of the University of Kentucky Medical School points out, HPV “is not a fair player. Far and away the majority of malignant cases are in women.”