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Spermicide - more harm than good

Spermicide May Actually Do More Harm Than Good By Adam Glickman

Years ago it was thought that the spermicide Nonoxynol-9 that was added to condoms and sexual lubricants would help prevent both unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. After a decade of research it appears that while Nonoxynol-9 is fairly effecting at killing sperm, it is not effective in fighting the spread of STD's, including HIV. In fact, it may actually do more harm than good.

The widely used spermicide Nonoxynol-9, long recommended as a way to stop the spread of AIDS, may actually increase the risk of catching the virus, at least among women who use it frequently, according to the surprising findings of a large study.

As a result, health officials said condoms used solely to prevent disease should not be coated with Nonoxynol-9, although a condom with the spermicide is certainly safer than no condom at all. And they said the spermicide should also not be used for birth control by anyone at high risk of catching HIV.

Nonoxynol-9 is widely used around the world for contraception, and about one-third of lubricated condoms sold in the United States are covered with it. Nonoxynol-9 is a detergent formulated to kill sperm, but in the test tube it also wipes out HIV, and many have long assumed it helps protect people from the virus.

However, a study on prostitutes released at the 13th International AIDS Conference (1999) showed just the opposite: Women using a nonoxynol-9 gel increased their risk of contracting HIV rather than lowering it.

"It is an understatement to say that we were extremely disappointed," said Dr. Lut Van Damme of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, the study's director.

The researchers now assume that Nonoxynol-9, or N-9, increases the risk by irritating the vaginal lining, causing tears that give the virus a way to enter the body.

Bottom Line: Unless you are using Nonoxynol-9 exclusively for the prevention of pregnancy and you are certain that you are not allergic or irritated by N-9, then we suggestion that you do not use condoms or lubricants that contain spermicide/Nonoxynol-9.

For more information, or to purchase condoms with or without spermicide, visit Condomania.com.

Copyright 2002-2004 Condomania. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Written by Nadia MacLeod