The Independent Women’s Forum congratulates the House of Representatives for passage of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act on May 9th. This bill will guarantee treatment for women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer. It will also highlight one of the causes of cervical cancer: a little known yet very widespread and often deadly virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Twenty-four million Americans are believed to be infected with HPV. While everyone infected with HPV will not develop cancer, every year 15,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and 5,000 women die from the disease.

Despite the fact that HPV is so pervasive and claims thousands of lives every year, most Americans have never heard of the disease.

The Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act would make cervical cancer prevention a priority. It does this by requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop educational materials for health care providers and the public regarding HPV. It directs the CDC to determine the prevalence of the disease. And it requires condom packages to include educational information that HPV is the cause of cervical cancer and that condoms do not prevent the transmission of HPV.

This is an extremely important point to note. Many sexually active Americans think that using a condom will protect them from sexually -transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, this is not the case with HPV. According to the National Cancer Institute, the evidence that condoms do not protect against HPV is so definitive that “additional research efforts by NCI on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HPV transmission is not warranted.” The American Cancer Society has concurred, stating “research shows that condoms cannot protect against infection with HPV.”

The Independent Women’s Forum is dismayed that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has actively lobbied against HPV prevention efforts. ACOG, which should represent the health care needs of women, in this case is acting to keep women uninformed about this potential health risk. ACOG is the only health care advocacy organization to oppose educating women and the American public about HPV.

Additionally, U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Connie Morella (R-MD), Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Diane DeGette (D-CO) spoke against the HPV education provisions during the House debate. These members of Congress and ACOG owe women an explanation as to why they think women should be ignorant about a disease that could take their lives.