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Condom Sense

Update on Nonoxynol-9

In the past, public health experts recommended using condoms combined with Nonoxynol-9 (N-9), a spermicide, for increased protection against pregnancy, HIV, and STDs. Two recent studies, however, call into question the effectiveness and safety of N-9.

A study published by UNAIDS found that N-9 used without condoms was ineffective against HIV transmission. This study actually showed some evidence that N-9 increased the risk of HIV infection.

Researchers note that this study was conducted among commercial sex workers in Africa who are at increased risk and used a N-9 gel on a frequent basis. The adverse effects might not be seen at the same level among women who are using N-9 less frequently or in a different formulation.

As a result of this study, however, the CDC concluded that given that N-9 has been proven ineffective against HIV transmission, the possibility of risk, with no benefit, indicates that N-9 should not be recommended as an effective means of HIV-prevention.

A similar study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that N-9, when used with condoms, did not protect women from the bacteria that causes gonorrhea and chlamydial infection any better than condoms used alone.

SIECUS Fact Sheet, "The Truth About Condoms", November 2002
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