February 11, 1992

Studies reveal disadvantages of spermicide nonoxynol-9

The world's most widely used spermicide, nonoxynol-9, has been recommended for a long time as an effective sperm destroyer and a protector against gonorrhoea, chlamydia, genital herpes and the HIV virus. Many pessaries and foams contain nonoxynol-9, and many condoms are coated with it. However, doubts are now being raised about its effectiveness as a prophylactic against the HIV virus and there are fears that its use may even encourage HIV transmission. Studies have shown that women who are "heavy users" (for example commercial sex workers ("prostitutes") may suffer an adverse reaction to the spermicide which may create small lesions in the vagina through which HIV and other infections can pass. Of 64 women commercial sex workers in Canada who used condoms lubricated with nonoxynol-9, 28 reported vaginal discharge, five reported increased thrush infection and four reported a burning sensation or numbness.

Another study found 43 percent of women suffer irritation. Dr. Malcolm Potts, Secretary of International Family Health said studies on the spermicide had been very inadequate and more research was needed.

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Created: January 31, 1995
Last modified: April 11, 1998

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