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Nonoxynol 9 = HIV?
Oct 22, 2002

Dear Dr. Bob,

It's me again - the "billiards" girl (the one with the cue-ball boyfriend, hee hee!). October 17 is our 6-month test date, so I'm anxiously awaiting the time when I can write back with my RE-WOOHOO! In the meantime, though, I have another question which I can't seem to get answered in the Safe Sex forum...

I read an article the other day on The Body stating that nonoxynol-9 can lead to irritation of the vaginal walls, and thus increase the potential for HIV transmission during intercourse. The article said that condoms with nonoxynol-9 should therefore not be used, but I am confused by this. Even if N9 irritated/caused tears in the vagina, wouldn't you still be protected anyway since the condom would still be in place? This made me nervous because I realized Yule Brynner and I had been using N9-lubricated condoms for a couple of months now (though, of course, we did have that negative 3-month test!). I was just curious. Thanks, Doc!!

Stacie, aka Paranoid Girl

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hey Billiards Girl, AKA Paranoid Girl,

I thought you and Yule Brynner would be RE-WOO-HOO-ing about now.

The nonoxynol-9 story has been getting a lot of press lately, and it's about time! Originally, it was thought that N9 had some anti-HIV properties, and therefore would hopefully decrease the risk of HIV transmission. The stuff was added to lubes, lotions, and lubricated condoms, all with good intentions. Subsequent studies showed, as you pointed out, that N9 is actually quite irritating to the mucosal surfaces of the vagina or rectum. Irritation makes it easier for HIV to gain access. Therefore, N9, which was designed to help prevent HIV infection, could actually facilitate transmission of the virus. But don't worry Stacie, that only applies to unprotected sex or if the condom breaks. If your condoms have stayed intact, you and cue ball are just fine.

The companies that make lubricants have now all agreed to take the N9 out of their products. However, they have not agreed to stop using it in their lubricated condoms -- yet. They will when everyone stops buying the damn things. N9 has no useful purpose at all, and, in fact, can be harmful by the mechanism discussed above. Check the labeling on your condom packages. Don't buy any that contain N9, and ask your drug store/pharmacy not to stock these, because they are dangerous. The manufacturing companies will eventually get the message. In there is some legislation being developed in San Francisco to ban all N9 containing products from store shelves! I just love San Francisco!

Stay well. Enjoy your RE-WOO-HOO! Send my best to Rogaine Failure!

Dr. Bob


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