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sick of virginity (CONDOMS)
Aug 25, 2007

I am a 30 year old virgin and tired of it. I have had girlfriends but they only wanted to kiss and that was it. I am considering going th escort route. Do you think most escorts are knowledgable enough about protection to use a condom properly since I never did it before.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Virgin-Guy,

A 30-year-old virgin??? Wow . . . do you look like Voldemort or, worse yet, Dick Cheney? (Hmmm . . . or are they really one and the same?)

Regarding your upcoming (up and cumming?) adventure with the Naughty Lady of Shady Lane, yes, most professional sex workers are indeed well versed in STD prevention. However, you certainly shouldn't rely on that to preserve your health! The responsibility for protecting your HIV-negative status and preventing other STDs is yours, not hers! Just because you've never had sex before doesn't mean you can't learn how to use a condom properly. Buy a 12-pack and practice! I'll reprint some information from the archives concerning condom use below.

Stay safe and you'll stay well.

Dr. Bob

correct informations (CONDOMS) Jul 7, 2007

Hi, Dr. Bob!

I was talking about latex condom and vaseline which would be used sometimes also by prostitutes, unfortunately. He read that latex condome, if it once comes in touch with vaseline or baby-oil can at once pass hiv particles, even if it is intact. But, i asked other professional people , and they said, there is no chance that hiv pass through intact latex, no metter if it was exposed to some vaseline, and that vaseline can increase chances of condom breakage. We are both from Germany and here, lot of professional girls sometimes have vaseline or oil on their hands, soem of them put small amounts in her "that one". So, we are now asking around : are there any chances that condoms get damaged via some vaseline? (prostitute he visited use vaseline, but she did not do it in his case- i think he posted his question on this site and sorry, if i'm bother you, Doc.) .Is it true, vaseline do not make condoms permeable to viruses, it increases only chances of it breakage??

Thank you for your time, for your willingness to read and answer my questions.

BEST wishes to you and all your friends,

always reading you)

Robby.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Robby,

Vaseline and all other oil-based or petroleum-based products should not be used with latex condoms, as they cause the condom to deteriorate and increase the risk it will break. If Vaseline cannot be avoided, bring your own polyurethane condoms (Avanti), as these can be safely used with oil-based lubricants.

I'll reprint some additional information about condoms from the archives below.

Good luck. Stay safe.

Dr. Bob

latex condom with vaseline lubricant Oct 16, 2006

While having anal sex with sex worker i used 2 latex expired condoms and over condoms for smooth insersion i used vaseline cream. what is my chance of getin HIV. I have read that if one use vaseline with latex condom the condom is virtually useless. please advice

Response from Dr. Frascino

Two expired latex condoms plus Vaseline????? Yikes, you're a safer sex flunky three times over!

1. Using two latex condoms (double bagging) can cause friction, as latex will rub on latex, thereby increasing the risk the condoms will fail (pop).

2. Expired condoms? Never a good idea.

3. Vaseline is an oil-based lubricant. Oil-based lubricants and latex don't play well together. The petroleum in oil-based products can denature the latex, which can ruin the integrity of the condom and thus cause it to fail.

What are your chances of getting HIV? I have no way of knowing. Assuming that luckily the condoms did not break and that they may not have been too far out of date, there's a good chance you dodged the HIV bullet and did not have a significant risk. However, if you're concerned, get a single HIV test at the three-month mark. And please spend some time reviewing the principles of safer sexual techniques and purchase some non-expired latex condoms! You may not be so lucky next time!

Dr. Bob

still get HIV/AIDS while using a condom Jan 11, 2005

Can you still get HIV/AIDS while using a condom?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

Yes and no!

No, if the latex or polyurethane condom is properly used and doesn't fail.

Yes, if the latex or polyurethane condom is not used properly or fails.

Things that can go wrong include:

1. Using lambskin (instead of latex or polyurethane) condoms. These prevent pregnancy, but not HIV.

2. Using condoms that have been "mistreated," i.e. kept in your wallet or car glove compartment. Too much heat, cold or friction can cause a condom to pop.

3. Using expired condoms. (Yes, just like milk, they can outdate and go "bad.")

4. Tearing the condom by opening the package with your teeth, Streisand-like fingernails or Dame Edna-like jewelry. Also, sharp edges on "body jewelry" on your big bopper or her love canal can also lead to problems.

5. Using oil-based lubricants Crisco, butter, baby oil, Vaseline and cold cream may be "handy" but they make latex fall apart.

Dr. Bob

Condom Permeability (CONDOMS) Oct 3, 2006

Some recent questions posted in the forum are really intresting and I would like the discussion to go a little further since it is a really important matter.

As you were questioned about the efficacy of condoms by an AIDS activist and recently another friend posted about permeability of hiv through latex. I would like to ad my situation. After going through an incidence of protected sex 2 months ago I became concerned about my exposure to HIV and so I started looking at the internet.

To my horror there are so many websites saying that latex pores are bigger than the size of HIV virus and thus HIV can pass through condoms. Reading all that material I have gone through such a painful time of extreme anxiety and of which I am still suffering since I want to get tested after 6 months and I think I still have to bear up with this for another 4 months.

My question is that if this information is wrong, health professionals like yourself and also the websites why are they not countering this disinformation. People like me who after their whatever exposures go to internet and unless there is correct information available they end up getting worried for nothing. It is definitely the responsibility of the health professionals to put forward the right information.

Having said all that I would just add to the earlier questions asked that I have looked at some of the details of the experiments they undertook to check the permeability and the report said I dont remember the exact number that 26 out of 80 or something condoms did leak some virus however the protection the provide is 10,000 fold more than unprotected sex. If 26 out of 80 leak its a big number and how do u say HIV cannot pass no way, no how. I still cant understand this. Your reply to last email giving links to planned parenthood article said that the virus particles used in that test were much smaller than HIV, whereas those tests describe particles to be of the same size.

This is very confusing. I would be grateful if you could really give us some concrete information about the whole debate and also post it as a permanent feature in your website to further the cause of right information.

Thanks a million for your good work. Keep it up.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Why aren't health care professionals and Web sties countering disinformation about condoms? Hmmm . . . hold on a second, dearie, I'm counting to 10 so my head doesn't explode. I just did a quick search for "condoms" for the archives of this forum and came up with 2320 separate posts. Honey, I'm typing as fast as I can! I've answered and re-answered and re-re-re-re-answered this question so many times that I feel like "The Department of Redundancy Department." This is definitely a QTND (Question That Never Dies). I cannot police the Internet or demand that misleading or frankly false information be removed from other Web sites any more than I can keep Bush/Cheney from saying Iraq was responsible for 9/11. What I can and do do is provide scientifically sound factual information. What you choose to read and believe is totally up to you, not me! If you had asked me (or a science-based factual HIV-prevention expert), I would have told you protected sex is indeed protected if the latex condom was used properly and did not fail. HIV cannot permeate intact latex. No way. No how. No matter what the Vatican or other rightwing, anti-abortion, extra-chromosome religious zealots may post on their sites. OK?

You write "it is definitely the responsibility of the health professionals to put forward the right information." I absolutely agree and I encourage you to read all 2320 posts in this forum alone to see that that is exactly what I (and many others) have been doing for years. What you need to realize, sweetie, is that there is a big difference between "the right information" and "information from the Right!"

I'll repost just a few posts from the archives and urge you to read the rest on your own.

Dr. Bob

can the HIV virus pass through the pores of a latex condom? Mar 8, 2003

Hi, I heard that the HIV virus is so small that it can possibly pass through the pores of a latex condom.

Is this information true? Also, what are the chances of contracting HIV from performing vaginal sex on a woman that is HIV positive assuming ideal conditions (condom stays intact and no leakage from the sides)?

Thank You.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You heard what? Where are you getting this information? The Department of Irresponsible and Irreproducible Results?" No, HIV cannot pass through a latex condom. Why else would we wear them? Oh yeah, there are the glow-in-the-dark ones that make pretty nifty night lights, but really, my friend, I certainly hope you don't believe everything that you hear. Perhaps what you heard was that HIV can pass through certain types of "natural" condoms, like those made form sheep's intestines (Ramses). That is true. Those types of condoms are fine for preventing unwanted pregnancy, but do not protect against HIV.

So what's your risk, if we assume the "ideal conditions" you describe? Essentially nonexistent.

Stay well.

Dr. Bob

Using condoms Sep 12, 2006

Hi Dr Bob,

I really like your forum. By the way my fiancee is positive and I'm negative. We have sex for 3 weeks using condoms and we double it. The condom did not break nor it leak. However I encountered itchiness when we try another brand of condoms and I have white discharge so I'm taking meds for it now. I'm just curious if this might be a symptoms that despite of using condoms I still get infection of HIV because the OB gyne I went to here in the Philippines told me that using condoms is not safe and STD like HIV may infect me still...Thanks a lot for your response.

Regards, Concerned woman

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Your OB/GYN doctor told you what???? The facts are that latex or polyurethane condoms are very effective in reducing the risk of STDs, including HIV, if they are used properly and do not fail (break). HIV and other STDs cannot permeate intact latex or polyurethane. No way. No how.

I don't recommend using two latex condoms simultaneously, because the friction of latex on latex could actually weaken the condom and increase the risk of rupture. A single condom with water-based lubricant is all you need. If itchiness is occurring with latex condoms, it may be an allergy. Try switching to polyurethane.

I'll reprint some information about condoms from the archives below. Additional information about condoms, latex allergy, "double bagging" and condom efficacy can be found in the archives.

I'd also suggest you read through the archives that pertain to magnetic couples (one poz and one neg.).

Stay safe. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

AIDS INFONET FACT SHEET 153

Condoms

January 10, 2006

What Are Condoms?

What Are They Made Of?

How Are Condoms Used?

Using a Male Condom

Using a Female Condom

Nonoxynol-9

Condom Myths

The Bottom Line

What Are Condoms?

A condom is a tube made of thin, flexible material. It is closed at one end. Condoms have been used for hundreds of years to prevent pregnancy by keeping a man's semen out of a woman's vagina. Condoms also help prevent diseases that are spread by semen or by contact with infected sores in the genital area, including HIV. Most condoms go over a man's penis. A new type of condom was designed to fit into a woman's vagina. This "female" condom can also be used to protect the rectum.

What Are They Made Of?

Condoms used to be made of natural skin (including lambskin) or of rubber. That's why they are called "rubbers." Most condoms today are latex or polyurethane. Lambskin condoms can prevent pregnancy. However, they have tiny holes (pores) that are large enough for HIV to get through. Lambskin condoms do not prevent the spread of HIV. Latex is the most common material for condoms. Viruses cannot get through it. Latex is inexpensive and available in many styles. It has two drawbacks: oils make it fall apart, and some people are allergic to it.

Polyurethane is an option for people who are allergic to latex. One brand of female condom and one brand of male condom are made of polyurethane.

How Are Condoms Used?

Condoms can protect you during contact between the penis, mouth, vagina, or rectum. Condoms won't protect you from HIV or other infections unless you use them correctly.

Store condoms away from too much heat, cold, or friction. Do not keep them in a wallet or a car glove compartment.

Check the expiration date. Don't use outdated condoms.

Don't open a condom package with your teeth. Be careful that your fingernails or jewelry don't tear the condom. Body jewelry in or around your penis or vagina might also tear a condom.

Use a new condom every time you have sex, or when the penis moves from the rectum to the vagina.

Check the condom during sex, especially if it feels strange, to make sure it is still in place and unbroken.

Do not use a male condom and a female condom at the same time.

Use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms, not oil-based. The oils in Crisco, butter, baby oil, Vaseline or cold cream will make latex fall apart.

Use unlubricated condoms for oral sex (most lubricants taste awful).

Do not throw condoms into a toilet. They can clog plumbing.

Using a Male Condom:

Put the condom on when your penis is erect -- but before it touches your partner's mouth, vagina, or rectum. Many couples use a condom too late, after some initial penetration. Direct genital contact can transmit some diseases. The liquid that comes out of the penis before orgasm can contain HIV.

If you want, put some water-based lubricant inside the tip of the condom.

If you are not circumcised, push your foreskin back before you put on a condom. This lets your foreskin move without breaking the condom.

Squeeze air out of the tip of the condom to leave room for semen (cum). Unroll the rest of the condom down the penis.

Do not "double bag" (use two condoms). Friction between the condoms increases the chance of breakage.

After orgasm, hold the base of the condom and pull out before your penis gets soft.

Be careful not to spill semen onto your partner when you throw the condom away.

Using a Female Condom:

The female condom is a sleeve or pouch with a closed end and a larger open end. There are flexible rings at each end of the Reality condom, and a flexible V-shaped frame in the V-amour condom.

Put the condom in place before your partner's penis touches your vagina or rectum.

For use in the vagina, insert the narrow end of the condom, like inserting a diaphragm. The larger end goes over the opening to the vagina to protect the outside sex organs from infection.

Guide the penis into the large end to avoid unprotected contact between the penis and the partner's rectum or vagina.

Some people have used the Reality condom in the rectum after removing the smaller ring. Put the condom over your partner's erect penis. The condom will be inserted into the rectum along with the penis.

After sex, remove the condom before standing up. Twist the large end to keep the semen inside. Gently pull the condom out and throw it away.

Nonoxynol-9

Nonoxynol-9 is a chemical that kills sperm (a spermicide). It can help prevent pregnancy when it is used in the vagina along with condoms or other birth control methods. Nonoxynol-9 should not be used in the mouth or rectum.

Because nonoxynol-9 kills HIV in the test tube, it was considered as a way to prevent HIV infection during sex. Unfortunately, many people are allergic to it. Their sex organs (penis, vagina, and rectum) can get irritated and develop small sores that actually make it easier for HIV infection to spread. Nonoxynol-9 should not be used as a way to prevent HIV infection.

Condom Myths

Condoms don't work: Studies show condoms are 80% to 97% effective in preventing HIV transmission if they are used correctly every time you have sex.

Condoms break a lot: Less than 2% of condoms break when they are used correctly: no oils with latex condoms, no double condoms, no outdated condoms.

HIV can get through condoms: HIV cannot get through latex or polyurethane condoms. Don't use lambskin condoms.

The Bottom Line

When used correctly, condoms are the best way to prevent the spread of HIV during sexual activity. Condoms can protect the mouth, vagina or rectum from HIV-infected semen. They can protect the penis from HIV-infected vaginal fluids and blood in the mouth, vagina, or rectum. They also reduce the risk of spreading other sexually transmitted diseases.

Condoms must be stored, used and disposed of correctly. Male condoms are used on the penis. Female condoms can be used in the vagina or rectum.

For more information, see Condomania's World of Safer Sex at www.condomania.com or the FDA's condom brochure at www.fda.gov/oashi/aids/condom.html.

Jul 6, 2006

Hey Dr. McHandsome,

I'm about to enter into the sexually active period of my life.I'm 25 and I can't wait to impress the ladies with my wit and fashion! I'm writing because I'm concerned about carrying condoms in my pocket or wallet. Should i carry them in my man-bag instead or would that be too ticky-tacky?

Thanks for your prompt repy,

Sincerely yours,

Sergio-Gaylord

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You refer to me as Dr. McHandsome; you're 25 but only now about ready to enter into the sexually active period of your life; you expect to impress ladies with your wit and fashion; you carry a man-bag and your name is Sergio-Gaylord????? Whoa! There are so many rainbow flags waving in that message that it's only one penis Popsicle away from a Gay Day parade.

Dude, first off, when someone mentions man-bag on this site, I think scrotum.

To answer your question, condoms can be comfortably carried in your pockets or attaché case or stored for handy use in your nightstand "goody drawer."

Next, you may well be as straight as a lawn dart, but the tone of your post makes me wonder if you could bottom for Liberace. Either way, of course, it's fine with me. I just want you to be safe and sexually content and never-ever ticky-tacky.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

Holes in Latex Condom (CONDOMS) Jul 29, 2006

Hello Dr.

These last days there had been a lot of "bad information" circulating on the net about, the fact that the holes in the latex condom, are about 100 times bigger than an HIV particle, so the virus could pass the intact condom. I think, ( and i believe i read that in an paper) that althoug the hole could be 100 times bigger than a virus particule, at that level of interaction, the electromagnetic forces, make imposible for the particle to pass the intact latex. Unfortunately I coulnd't find any demonstration about this fact on the net, and my math or knowledge in molecular biology it's not enought to prove it. Thanks for your comments and sorry about my english. The bad info sometimes is worse than no info. Thanks again.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You are correct the information about holey condoms is "bad information" often generated and perpetuated by the holiest of holies, the Vatican. Religion obviously is based solely on beliefs, be they virgin births, walking on water, Adam and Steve (I mean Eve), etc. Science and common sense sometimes get in the way of these belief systems the science of evolution versus the belief of creationism, etc.

Unfortunately we have this type of problem with condoms. Anti-science religions, like the Catholic Church, believe that condoms are nothing more than Swiss cheese. Science, on the other hand, has confirmed repeatedly that HIV cannot permeate intact latex. No way. No how.

The concept that condoms have holes is a myth that has been disproved on numerous occasions. The Vatican (and other rightwing religious sex-phobic wingnuts), however, continues to "believe" their fantasy. Actually, it's hard for me to really accept that they actually truly believe this obvious fallacy, but they most likely continue to promote it because it fits in nicely with their other agendas.

I'll post some information form the archives that addresses the efficacy of condoms. You can also find much more information on this topic in the archives.

Yes, there is "bad information" out there; however, focusing on the scientifically sound information will mitigate and hopefully eventually eliminate myths in favor of truth, fact and common sense. Watch for a swing back toward science, truth and reality once Dubya and his cronies have been tarred, feathered and run out of town. One small victory this week was the crushing defeat of the Religious Right's poster boy, Ralph Reed, in his bid to become lieutenant governor of Georgia.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

only 80%????

Jul 25, 2006

I just was watching The Today and there was a doctor on there who stated that condoms are only 80% protective against HIV. I have always had protective anal sex - no condoms breaking. I have heard I am at close to zero risk - but this doctor "chic" on The Today show freaked me out. Can you add to this?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

No need to freak out. HIV cannot permeate intact latex. No way. No how. The reason condoms are not 100% protective has to do with many potential factors, such as:

1. Using the wrong kind of condom. Natural (lamb's skin) condoms do not protect against HIV.

2. Using condoms improperly. This is a biggy! You'd be amazed how many studs just don't know how to dress for success!

3. Condom failure. It's rare, but it can happen, especially if one is stingy with the lube.

I'll post some questions from the archives below that address condom efficacy. The "doctor chick" on the Today Show seems to be a bit of an alarmist. Chances are she voted for Dubya and his sex-phobic anti-science cronies.

Stay safe and you'll stay well.

Dr. Bob

What's the story with those new condoms?

Apr 3, 2006

Hey Dr Bob Thanks for answering our questions.

Recently I bought a Trojan condom and what I found written on it frightened me a lot.

The message written on the condom went something like, " although proper use of the condom may protect against HIV/Aids, it does not properly eliminate the risk".

That seemed a little bit in contradiction to what I have read from your archives here. My impression was that if the condom was used properly and does not break then you can count on 100% protection. Does this mean that those of us who had protected sex with people of unknown status should go for tests? I am confused.

Thanks Doc

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

". . . does not properly eliminate the risk???" I doubt that was the exact wording, but the take-home message you really need to hear is that if you're going to have sex, using a latex condom properly is the smartest thing you can do to prevent contracting HIV. I'll repost a question from earlier today that addressed condom efficacy.

Dr. Bob

not another hypothetical risk question Apr 3, 2006

Hi Dr Bob:

After finding out that my bf was HIV positive, I've been a regular in this great site, mining for as much information as I can find and process. I understand people's fears, but somehow I grow tired of the "5 years ago I touched a handkerchief that a prostitute had used to wipe her butt, I washed my hands with bleach 432 times after that and my ELISA, western and PCR came back negative 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after that, what should I do?" type of question. So here are my questions, from a neg. guy who regularly engages in protected sex with a pos. guy: 1- When they say that condoms offer at least 85% protection against HIV, do they mean that out of 100 episodes of protected sex with a pos. individual, 15 result in transmission? I guess not, but what do they actually mean? 2 - The HIV specialist my bf is seeing told him that there is no data to back up PEP, so she doesn't recommend it. Is this true? 3 - How often do you think I should be tested? Thank you so much for the amazing site, it goes to show that information is power.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

Gosh, if you think you're tired of the "touched a hooker's hankie" type of question, you can just imagine how I must feel as I wade through literally thousands of such questions on a continual basis day after day. So let's proceed to your magnetic couple questions: 1. The bottom line here is that HIV cannot pass through intact latex. No way. No how. Condom statistics (like all statistics) can be a bit misleading. I'll repost below a few questions from the archives that address the condom-efficacy question. I also suggest you check the Planned Parenthood Web site and review their document, "The Truth about Condoms." It's well referenced. Now let me show you an example of how statistics can be misleading in a very Republican-NRA sort of way. Consider the following stats: Doctors: The number of doctors in the U.S. is 700,000 Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000 Accidental deaths per physician is 17.14% (Statistics courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services) Guns: The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000 (yes that's 80 million) The number of accidental gun deaths per year is 1,500 The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.001875% (Statistics courtesy of the FBI) Therefore, "statistically speaking," doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners, the logical conclusion being "guns don't kill people, doctors do!" See what I mean about statistics and how they can be manipulated to support an illogical conclusion?!?

2. Your boyfriend's HIV specialist doesn't recommend PEP? That's worrisome. The most direct evidence supporting the efficacy of PEP is a case-control study of needlestick injuries to health care workers. In that study the prompt initiation of AZT was associated with an 81% decrease in the risk of acquiring HIV. In the nonoccupational arena we have data from observational studies and registries. Although data from observational studies and case reports may not provide definitive evidence of PEP's efficacy in nonoccupational exposures, the overall cumulative data is so convincing that it would now be considered unethical to run a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of PEP to scientifically verify what has now become standard of care for most HIV specialist practices. I would suggest you print out a copy of the recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services entitled "Antiretroviral Postexposure Prophylaxis After Sexual, Injection-Drug Use, or Other Nonoccupational Exposure to HIV in the United States" (January 2005) and review it with your boyfriend's HIV specialist. If he/she doesn't promptly change his or her opinion on PEP, you might want to consider changing HIV specialists! I also bet that if that specialist found himself/herself on the wrong end of a broken condom with an HIV+ partner, he or she would have PEP meds swallowed faster than Bush can write " I souport publik edekasion"

3. That depends on your level of risk. For instance, some magnetic couples don't use condoms for oral sex, some may not use condoms "properly" each and every time, etc. Some HIV specialists suggest an every-six-month STD/HIV screen for the sexually active "at risk" population. Consequently the answer to how often I would recommend that you be tested would depend on a variety of variables. But remember, the option of testing is always open to you if you feel there has been a potential exposure. Yes, information is indeed power.

Stay well. I hope your magnetic coupling is as successful and satisfying as mine. I think we should change the terminology of "serodiscordant" to "serodiverse," as serodiscordant is so, well, discordant, and that certainly doesn't apply to my relationship!

Dr. Bob

With age comes wisdom, maybe? Jun 29, 2005

Dr.Frascino:

Has there been any known cases of persons getting infected with HIV even though they have consistently and correctly used a latex condom without any breakage of slippage? This may sound like a dumb question to you and others, but me and my friends at my high school are getting different answers from alot of adults here at school and elsewhere about condoms and there effectiveness against HIV. Thanks for reading this letter and it is important to have an expert opinion like yours, I know you know more than these so called other grown-ups.

David (still not sure if I'm bi or just gay) either way would like to do it right.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi David,

With age comes wisdom? Maybe. But far too often with age the broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places. So, since I still have a narrow waist, I'll try to clear up the condom efficacy/effectiveness conundrum. Under controlled laboratory conditions, latex condoms are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens, including HIV. However, when placed into the context of horned-up mattress mambo with the lights off after a few cosmopolitans, the "real life" large-scale epidemiological studies show condoms to be 80-95% effective in reducing HIV infection. Some folks think they are using condoms properly, when, in reality, they are not. I'll attach a few recent posts from the archives that also address this issue, OK?

David, bi, gay or whatever, it's cool with me. What's most important is that your facts are "straight!"

Stay well! Stay safe.

Dr. Bob

critical: have you shifted your opinion on condoms? Posted: Apr 6, 2005

I am a donor to your organization, a regular reader and an admirer. I have a question for you that has very important ramifications for myself and the entire population that frequents this site. For literally years, your position has been, simply stated, that the proper use of a condom prevents HIV transmission. While "proper use" is somewhat loaded phraseology, and you have always very candidly pointed out that humans are not always perfect, the gist of your position has been that proper use of a condom prevents HIV transmissions and obviates testing. Of course, I realize that this prevention statement incorporates assumptions, e.g., condom did not fall off, break, was not expired, and was put on properly. Now, however, I am reading your posts indicating that "large epidemiological studies" indicate that practically speaking, i.e., in the real world of human error and shortcoming, condoms are (I believe you stated) approximately 80% to 95% effective at preventing transmission. You still state, though, that they are nearly 100% efficacious in the laboratory world. Perhaps I am missing something, but to me, you seemed to have shifted considerably your views on the overall effectiveness (i.e., real world effectiveness) of condoms. The question to you that I think should clarify your position: if you were advising an individual, such as myself, on the safety of using a condom for intercourse with a partner of unknown statuts (and therefore, to error on caution's side, let's say positive); and assuming that I have used many condoms in the past and know how to use them "properly," i.e., leave room at tip, unroll to base, don't put on inside-out, etc.), then would you advise me that using a condom for intercourse with this partner will effectively prevent HIV transmission? I realize that large epidemiological studies are not necessarily reducible to the individual level. But I think your apparent shift (at least as perceived by me) merits elaboration to the "individuals" who visit your site. Thank you, and god bless you!!!!

Dr. Bob's reply:

Hello,

No, my position on condoms has not changed at all over the years and I don't anticipate it will unless new scientific research evolves to support a change.

So, why the confusion??? Like many other current problems, it can be traced back to a "son of a Bush." In the context of U.S. Government policies and programs for combating HIV/AIDS domestically and internationally, a debate has resurfaced about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexual transmission of HIV infection. Some recent U.S. Government policies have begun to shift emphasis to the "lack of condom effectiveness" in educational materials and other publications that receive federal funds. This shift has caused confusion in the general public about whether condoms should be used and promoted for preventing HIV infection. I have consistently restated the scientific evidence related to condom efficacy and effectiveness for prevention of HIV/AIDS. You are correct that I have often quoted the scientific facts from laboratory studies, including those conducted by the FDA, concluding that latex condoms are impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens, including HIV. Therefore, if you did use a latex condom properly and the condom did not fail, I do not believe HIV testing is warranted.

There are many reasons condom effectiveness in preventing HIV may be compromised. For instance, using natural skin rather than latex or polyurethane condoms, using the wrong type of lubricant (oil-based rather than water-based), not using the condom for the whole sex act (some folks put them on just before ejaculating), compromising the integrity of the condom (excessive heat if kept in the glove compartment of your car, tearing the condom when opening the foil packet, using condoms beyond their expiration date), etc., etc., etc. the list can go on and on and on.

Even with all these "real life" limitations of not using a condom "properly," condoms still remain 80-95% effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection if used consistently. I hope that helps clarify any confusion.

The real take-home message is that scientific evidence does not support the recent shift in U.S. Government policy that stresses lack of condom efficacy. Rather the scientific evidence clearly shows that both male and female condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Gosh, if I'm getting this many questions about condoms, I can just imagine what the evolution and global warming experts are up against in refuting Dubya's faith-based science initiatives. Stay safe. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

I hope you won't be annoyed. Posted: May 14, 2005

Dr Bob,

You seem to imply that the catholic church's position re: rubbers is wrong. And I agree with you a 100%. However, what I disagree with is your counter-implication that condoms provide almost perfect protection. Fact is, in studies with discordant couples, there were always one or two that got infected with condoms (as opposed to 10 out of a 100 odd couples) implying that the risk is still significant. I want to know if I am misunderstanding you, or what your opinion is on this otherwise.

Thank you for educating us on these issues. You are the best!

Dr. Bob's response:

Hi,

No, of course I'm not annoyed but I do think you are misinterpreting my "counter-implication." If you go back to the archives, what you will find is that my statements are very consistent and reflect what we know about how well condoms work for preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Perhaps the easiest way to explain this is to make a distinction between efficacy and effectiveness. Efficacy can be defined as the protection the user would have under "ideal" conditions. Efficacy, therefore, is dependent on the properties of the device, in this case the condom, tested in controlled situations. Effectiveness can be defined as the protection the user would have under "actual" or "real life" conditions. Effectiveness, therefore, is dependent on both the properties of the device (condom) and the behaviors of the user. Laboratory studies, including those conducted by the FDA, have shown the latex condom to be essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD germs, including HIV. However, in large-scale, "real life" epidemiological studies, condoms are 80-95% effective in reducing HIV infection.

The bottom line is that condoms provide a highly effective barrier method when used correctly.

The Catholic Church is shamefully wrong in their condemnation of condoms. For example, in El Salvador the Church helped push through a law requiring condom packages to carry a warning label stating that condoms do not protect against AIDS. Studies now show fewer than four percent of Salvadoran couples use condoms the first time they have sex. The result will be more funerals. The Church must choose between obeying tradition and saving lives. Somehow the answer to the often quoted question "What would Jesus do?" seems painfully obvious.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION Basic Facts About Condoms and Their Use in Preventing HIV Infection and Other STDs With more than 1 million Americans infected with HIV, most of them through sexual transmission, and an estimated 12 million other sexually transmitted diseases occurring each year in the United States, effective strategies for preventing these diseases are critical. The proper and consistent use of latex condoms when engaging in sexual intercourse--vaginal, anal, or oral--can greatly reduce a person's risk of acquiring or transmitting STDs, including HIV infection. In fact, recent studies provide compelling evidence that latex condoms are highly effective in protecting against HIV infection when used properly for every act of intercourse. Latex condoms are highly effective when used consistently and correctly-- new studies provide additional evidence that condoms work The protection that proper use of latex condoms provides against HIV transmission is most evident from studies of couples in which one member is infected with HIV and the other is not, i.e., "discordant couples." In a study of discordant couples in Europe, among 123 couples who reported consistent condom use, none of the uninfected partners became infected. In contrast, among the 122 couples who used condoms inconsistently, 12 of the uninfected partners became infected. As these studies indicate, condoms must be used consistently and correctly to provide maximum protection. Consistent use means using a condom from start to finish with each act of intercourse. Correct condom use should include the following steps: Use a new condom for each act of intercourse. Put on the condom as soon as erection occurs and before any sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral). Hold the tip of the condom and unroll it onto the erect penis, leaving space at the tip of the condom, yet ensuring that no air is trapped in the condom's tip. Adequate lubrication is important, but use only water-based lubricants, such as glycerine or lubricating jellies (which can be purchased at any pharmacy). Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, cold cream, hand lotion, or baby oil, can weaken the condom. Withdraw from the partner immediately after ejaculation, holding the condom firmly to keep it from slipping off. Myths About Condoms There continues to be misinformation and misunderstanding about condom effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following updated information to address some common myths about condoms. This information is based on findings from recent epidemiologic, laboratory, and clinical studies. Myth #1: Condoms don't work Some persons have expressed concern about studies that report failure rates among couples using condoms for pregnancy prevention. Analysis of these studies indicates that the large range of efficacy rates is related to incorrect or i inconsistent use. The fact is: latex condoms are highly effective for pregnancy prevention, but only when they are used properly. Research indicates that only 30 to 60 percent of men who claim to use condoms for contraception actually use them for every act of intercourse. Further, even people who use condoms every time may not use them correctly. Incorrect use contributes to the possibility that the condom could leak from the base or break. Myth #2: HIV can pass through condoms A commonly held misperception is that latex condoms contain "holes" that allow passage of HIV. Although this may be true for natural membrane condoms, laboratory studies show that intact latex condoms provide a continuous barrier to microorganisms, including HIV, as well as sperm. Myth #3: Condoms frequently break Another area of concern expressed by some is about the quality of latex condoms. Condoms are classified as medical devices and are regulated by the FDA. Every latex condom manufactured in the United States is tested for defects before it is packaged. During the manufacturing process, condoms are double-dipped in latex and undergo stringent quality control procedures. Several studies clearly show that condom breakage rates in this country are less than 2 percent. Most of the breakage is due to incorrect usage rather than poor condom quality. Using oil-based lubricants can weaken latex, causing the condom to break. In addition, condoms can be weakened by exposure to heat or sunlight or by age, or they can be torn by teeth or fingernails. Preventing HIV Infection And Other STDs Recommended Prevention Strategies Abstaining from sexual activity is the most effective HIV prevention strategy. However, for individuals who choose to be sexually active, the following are highly effective: Engaging in sexual activities that do not involve vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse Having intercourse only with one uninfected partner Using latex condoms correctly from start to finish with each act of intercourse Other HIV Prevention Strategies Condoms for Women The FDA recently approved a female condom, which will soon be available in the United States. A limited study of this condom as a contraceptive indicates a failure rate of about 26 percent in 1 year. Although laboratory studies indicate that the device serves as a mechanical barrier to viruses, further clinical research is necessary to determine its effectiveness in preventing transmission of HIV. Spermicides The role of spermicides in preventing HIV infection is uncertain. Condoms lubricated with spermicides are not likely to be more effective than condoms used with other water-based lubricants. Spermicides added to the tip of the condom are also not likely to add protection against HIV. Making Responsible Choices In summary, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, are preventable, and individuals have several responsible prevention strategies to choose from. But the effectiveness of each one depends largely on the individual. Those who practice abstinence as a prevention strategy will find it effective only if they always abstain. Similarly, those who choose any of the other recommended prevention strategies, including condoms, will find them highly effective if used correctly and consistently. For further information contact: CDC National AIDS Hotline: 1.800.232.4636 Spanish: 1-800-342-SIDA Deaf: 1-800-324-7889 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Centers for Disease Control and Prevention July 30, 1993 ________________________________________ Our thanks to<> Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided this article to The Body.

aids virus through condoms Oct 1, 2006

Someone stated that the Aids virus is smaller than the pores in latex condoms. So, a person could get aids while wearing a condom during sex. goggle sent me to a site posted by a Right to life group that sounds like they're trying to scare people into abstinance. My common sense and reading your opinion tell me those statements are false and misleading. Is there a definitive study by CDC or real science that covers this subject? I need to print a copy for this guy. Thanks, JC

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Google sent you to a Right to Life group that said HIV can pass through "pores" in latex condoms??? Yikes! That means the rightwing religious zealot wing-nuts have taken control of Google!?!? Your "common sense and reading" are absolutely correct. Statements like the ones you read are both "false and misleading." I'd also add dangerous to that list! Check out the two links below for the truth one article is from the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the other is from Planned Parenthood. Both of these articles include references from the published scientific literature rather than gobbledygook fantasies from the Vatican and Bush/Cheney pseudo-science!

1. http://www.amfar.org/binary-data/AMFAR_PUBLICATION/ download_file/34.pdf+amfar+the+effectiveness+of+condoms+in+ preventing+HIV+transmission&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

2. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/news-articles-press/politics- policy-issues/birth-control-access-prevention/condoms-truth-6543.htm

Stay informed. Stay safe. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

questions about condoms (CONDOMS) Jul 6, 2007

Ok 2 quick question, 1- Are condoms intergrity jeopardized when the condom is stored in extreme weather, such as extremely hot or extremely cold tempatures? I have kept mine in the glove box of my car and i just wonder if the extreme heat in there during the summer would cause holes or anything else that could cause them to loose their protective qualities. Also how does one use a condom incorrectly? I have read on here that as long as a condom does not tear or isn't used incorrectly then HIV risk would be eliminated. You can only unroll it 1 direction, and other than that I couldn't imagine it being used incorrectly by anybody. God bless you and your work good doctor, it means a lot to us to have a place to come to recieve quality information about HIV prevention. Thank you very much

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

1. Extremes of temperature can affect latex condom integrity. They should not be kept in hot glove boxes in cars. (See below.)

2. Condoms can be used incorrectly in a variety of ways, beginning with using the incorrect condom for STD prevention! Natural condoms (lambskin) prevent pregnancy, but do not prevent HIV. There are also a variety of other potential human errors. See below.

Dr. Bob

manbag condoms Jul 6, 2006

Hey Dr. McHandsome,

I'm about to enter into the sexually active period of my life.I'm 25 and I can't wait to impress the ladies with my wit and fashion! I'm writing because I'm concerned about carrying condoms in my pocket or wallet. Should i carry them in my man-bag instead or would that be too ticky-tacky?

Thanks for your prompt repy,

Sincerely yours,

Sergio-Gaylord

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You refer to me as Dr. McHandsome; you're 25 but only now about ready to enter into the sexually active period of your life; you expect to impress ladies with your wit and fashion; you carry a man-bag and your name is Sergio-Gaylord????? Whoa! There are so many rainbow flags waving in that message that it's only one penis Popsicle away from a Gay Day parade.

Dude, first off, when someone mentions man-bag on this site, I think scrotum.

To answer your question, condoms can be comfortably carried in your pockets or attaché case or stored for handy use in your nightstand "goody drawer."

Next, you may well be as straight as a lawn dart, but the tone of your post makes me wonder if you could bottom for Liberace. Either way, of course, it's fine with me. I just want you to be safe and sexually content and never-ever ticky-tacky.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

condoms aren't totally safe (CONDOMS) (CONDOM EFFICACY) Jan 10, 2007

I don't really have a queston but rather a statement. i'm a 17 senoir in hight school and have done many essays throughout my high school career. when i was in the 11th grade i did a report on safe sex and the different types of condoms you can use. i quickly found out that, they may decrease the risk but they do NOT take that risk away. there are tiny tears in condoms that are not big enough for sperm to pass but, viruses can. i think you should better infor people on this subject and help me help people understand that there is always that chance that you could become infected.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You don't have a "queston," but rather a statement. OK. You're a "senoir" in "hight" school???? Hmmm . . . . Your many essays and 11th grade report on safe sex found that there are "tiny tears in condoms that are not big enough for sperm to pass, but viruses can."???? Consequently, you think I should better "infor" people on this subject . . . . Do I have that correct?????

OK, I'm delighted you have taken an interest in learning about safe(r) sex, including the use of condoms. However, if I graded your report, you would have flunked, because you did not use scientifically reliable sources for your information. I strongly urge you to go back and check your sources and your facts, not to mention your spelling and grammar!

I do agree with you that condoms, when used in real world situations, are not 100% effective, but not for the reasons that you imply. HIV and other viruses, such as hepatitis, cannot permeate intact latex or polyurethane. No way. No how! Condoms do not have tiny tears that allow HIV to pass through!!! Condoms are not 100% effective, because they can be used improperly and, rarely, they fail (break) during sex. I'll repost one item from the archives below. You can find many more by doing a simple search and following the related links. I'd advise steering clear of links to The Vatican or anything having to do with Fox News or any Bush Administration faith-based, science-phobic position papers on this topic, OK?

Finally, since you are still in high school, let me leave you with a quote form Mark Twain:

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Good luck.

Get the real facts. Stay safe.

Dr. Bob

Will you help a Republican in need ? Apr 18, 2006

Dear Dr Frascino,

Yes I am a Republican, but I am still human and I hope you will keep that in mind and answer my question. My question regards proper use of condoms. I am uncircumcised. I heard that it increases my risk for acquiring HIV. What happens when AFTER using the condom, when taking the condom OFF and I have either blood or vaginal secretons (from deep in the cervix) from the used condom and i touch the foreskin to clean it etc. Do I have a risk with this activity. I would appreciate an answer sire, It will help me in the future. I dont believe this question has been answered before.

Many Many thanks ...

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Republican,

1. You don't have to call me "sire." Sir will do just fine.

2. Basic facts about condoms and how to use them properly should not be a mystery. These should be taught to all potentially sexually active young adults. That means high school at the latest! Republicans seem to think that information is taboo and shouldn't be taught. Consequently, if I wasn't such a nice guy, I suppose I could give you a Republican answer and tell you that you don't need to know about nasty dirty stuff like condoms, and besides they don't work and they have more holes in them than Swiss cheese and if you use them, you're going to hell and what about that virginity pledge you made and here's a nice book about abstinence. You can read it on the way to church. But since I'm a nice guy (read Democrat) I'll happily supply you with the information you request. You can read all about the proper use of condoms on this site and related links. I'll post a few examples below. Please note we no longer recomend the use of nonoxyno-9!!! Just follow these guidelines and you'll be fine. Touching the outside of a condom while removing it and then touching your penis or foreskin would not constitute a significant HIV-transmission risk.

Now that I've answered your question, any chance you'll take a closer look at whom and what you've been voting for?

Dr. Bob

How to Use Condoms Correctly Latex Barriers -- for Men and Women -- Prevent Transmission of HIV Virtually 100% of the Time August 1996

Condoms are like cars: If you have an accident with one, the cause is almost certainly operator error, not mechanical failure. Indeed, the estimated failure rate of latex condoms is between 2% and 5% -- and when a condom does tear during intercourse, that failure is most likely the result of misuse, not a manufacturing defect. The federal Food and Drug Administration -- which regards condoms as "medical devices," regulates their production, and makes frequent, unannounced inspections of condom-manufacturing facilities -- has declared that the difference in quality between the best and worst condoms on the market "is tiny compared with the problems that users introduce."

Condoms are like cars in another respect: They work best when they are used according to the manufacturer's instructions. The most common cause of condom failure is almost embarrassingly obvious: If the condom is placed on the penis upside down and unrolled from the inside out, it is more likely to slip off or tear during intercourse. (It should fit over the head of the penis like a dunce's cap, with the rolled "brim" outside the "cap" -- so that it will unroll easily down the shaft of the penis.) This fundamental error occurs far more often than it should, and it reveals the degree to which ignorance and embarrassment contribute to condom failure.

There is no such thing as a learner's permit for condom users, and there are no mandatory driver's education programs -- and that's too bad, because learning how to handle a condom with skill and confidence requires a degree of familiarity with the device. Most sexually-active Americans -- like most practicing physicians -- came of age after the widespread introduction of oral contraceptives. The advent of the birth-control pill eliminated the need for condoms as a means of preventing pregnancy, and the condom -- which was regarded as inhibiting and cumbersome -- fell from favor.

Birth-control pills do prevent pregnancy, but they do not prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted disease like AIDS. Only condoms (and abstinence) do that, and condoms do it remarkably well -- if they are used consistently and correctly. The proper use of latex and polyurethane condoms -- ideally, in combination with the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which kills all the HIV that is present in the condom -- is the keystone of all programs to prevent the transmission of HIV infection. All sexually-active individuals who have sexual relations, however infrequent, with anyone whose HIV status is not known to them should therefore use a new, latex condom for every act of vaginal or anal intercourse.

Condoms do work. But they only work when they are used consistently and correctly. Women as well as men should familiarize themselves with the following diagrams and instructions, and both should know that a newly developed "female condom" offers couples the same effective barrier protection -- with what many users regard as superior comfort and convenience. Familiarity with the use of condoms -- for men and for women -- is like familiarity with sex itself: Experience is the best teacher. And what experience will teach even the most reluctant condom user is that protective latex barriers can be successfully and safely incorporated into the most pleasurable and life-affirming form of human contact.

Correct Use of Condoms Worn by Men

1. Always use a new latex or polyurethane condom for each act of vaginal or anal intercourse. (Condoms are also recommended for oral sex with a partner who is known to be HIV-positive or whose HIV status you do not know.) Open the package carefully, so that you do not tear the condom.

2. Before any form of direct sexual contact with your partner, place the condom over the head of your erect penis, leaving about a half-inch of space at the end (Figure 1). Note: If you are uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin before you place the condom over the head of your penis.

3. The condom should fit over the head of the penis like a small rubber cap, with the rolled "brim" outside the "cap" -- so that it will unroll easily down the shaft of the penis. Gently squeeze the tip of the condom to remove any trapped air.

4. Hold the tip of the condom and unroll it all the way down to the base of your penis (Figure 2). A lubricant, applied to the outside of the condom, will make insertion easier. Use only a water-based lubricant. The lubricant nonoxynol-9, which is available without a prescription in most drug stores and pharmacies, should be used if you know you are HIV-positive or think you are HIV-positive -- because it will kill all the HIV that is released into the condom.

5. If you feel the condom break -- or think it may be broken -- withdraw immediately. Throw the condom away and use a new condom.

6. After you ejaculate, hold the condom to the base of your penis while you withdraw -- to keep it from coming off while it is still in your partner's vagina, anus, or mouth. Gently peel the used condom off the tip of your penis (Figure 3) and throw it away. Never use a condom more than once.

Basic Facts About Condoms and Their Use in Preventing HIV Infection and Other STDs

With more than 1 million Americans infected with HIV, most of them through sexual transmission, and an estimated 12 million other sexually transmitted diseases occurring each year in the United States, effective strategies for preventing these diseases are critical.

The proper and consistent use of latex condoms when engaging in sexual intercourse--vaginal, anal, or oral--can greatly reduce a person's risk of acquiring or transmitting STDs, including HIV infection. In fact, recent studies provide compelling evidence that latex condoms are highly effective in protecting against HIV infection when used properly for every act of intercourse. Latex condoms are highly effective when used consistently and correctly-- new studies provide additional evidence that condoms work The protection that proper use of latex condoms provides against HIV transmission is most evident from studies of couples in which one member is infected with HIV and the other is not, i.e., "discordant couples." In a study of discordant couples in Europe, among 123 couples who reported consistent condom use, none of the uninfected partners became infected. In contrast, among the 122 couples who used condoms inconsistently, 12 of the uninfected partners became infected.

As these studies indicate, condoms must be used consistently and correctly to provide maximum protection. Consistent use means using a condom from start to finish with each act of intercourse. Correct condom use should include the following steps:

Use a new condom for each act of intercourse.

Put on the condom as soon as erection occurs and before any sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral).

Hold the tip of the condom and unroll it onto the erect penis, leaving space at the tip of the condom, yet ensuring that no air is trapped in the condom's tip.

Adequate lubrication is important, but use only water-based lubricants, such as glycerine or lubricating jellies (which can be purchased at any pharmacy). Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, cold cream, hand lotion, or baby oil, can weaken the condom.

Withdraw from the partner immediately after ejaculation, holding the condom firmly to keep it from slipping off.

Myths About Condoms

There continues to be misinformation and misunderstanding about condom effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following updated information to address some common myths about condoms. This information is based on findings from recent epidemiologic, laboratory, and clinical studies.

Myth #1: Condoms don't work

Some persons have expressed concern about studies that report failure rates among couples using condoms for pregnancy prevention. Analysis of these studies indicates that the large range of efficacy rates is related to incorrect or i inconsistent use. The fact is: latex condoms are highly effective for pregnancy prevention, but only when they are used properly. Research indicates that only 30 to 60 percent of men who claim to use condoms for contraception actually use them for every act of intercourse. Further, even people who use condoms every time may not use them correctly. Incorrect use contributes to the possibility that the condom could leak from the base or break.

Myth #2: HIV can pass through condoms

A commonly held misperception is that latex condoms contain "holes" that allow passage of HIV. Although this may be true for natural membrane condoms, laboratory studies show that intact latex condoms provide a continuous barrier to microorganisms, including HIV, as well as sperm.

Myth #3: Condoms frequently break

Another area of concern expressed by some is about the quality of latex condoms. Condoms are classified as medical devices and are regulated by the FDA. Every latex condom manufactured in the United States is tested for defects before it is packaged. During the manufacturing process, condoms are double-dipped in latex and undergo stringent quality control procedures. Several studies clearly show that condom breakage rates in this country are less than 2 percent. Most of the breakage is due to incorrect usage rather than poor condom quality. Using oil-based lubricants can weaken latex, causing the condom to break. In addition, condoms can be weakened by exposure to heat or sunlight or by age, or they can be torn by teeth or fingernails.

Nonoxynol-9 Harmful, Should Not Be Used in Condoms, Lube

By John S. James

June 28, 2002

On June 25, 2002 the World Health Organization published a 27-page report summarizing what is known about nonoxynol-9 (N-9) -- the failed microbicide that actually increases risk of HIV transmission. They concluded that N-9 should never be used for preventing HIV transmission, has no value in preventing other sexually transmitted diseases, and should never be used rectally, where the problem may be much worse than with vaginal use. (The report acknowledges that women at low risk of HIV infection may use N-9 occasionally as a moderately effective, female-controlled form of birth control, when better means are not available to them.)

Condoms should not include N-9 for any use. However, if the only condom available has N-9, it is better than no condom. On May 10, 2002 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its Guidelines for the Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (PDF), also warning against using N-9 for STD prevention.

Background and Comment

N-9 kills HIV in the laboratory. But it also causes irritation in the vagina or rectum that can allow HIV to infect. A major clinical trial in women, reported two years ago at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, studied over 800 sex workers randomly given either an N-9 or placebo gel, and found 48% more new HIV infections among those using N-9.

No one has done such a study with rectal use. But in both humans and animals the irritation is worse, with "sloughing of sheets of epithelium." The damage is later repaired, but by then HIV could have been transmitted.

A recent survey found that about 40% of condoms sold in the U.S. are lubricated with N-9, and about 40% of gay men look for it. Manufacturers of condoms and lube have no incentive to include N-9, except for this mistaken public demand; and all of these manufacturers also market parallel versions of their products without N-9. Now that there is a clear, official consensus that N-9 is harmful, especially for rectal use, it is likely to start disappearing from condoms and lubes.

The community will need to help get the word out, since no one has a commercial incentive to do so, and government agencies are reluctant to speak about anal sex.

References 1. WHO/CONRAD Technical Consultation on Nonoxynol-9, World Health Organization, Geneva 9-10 October 2001, Summary Report. (This is the report published June 25, 2002; the October 2001 meeting brought together experts to examine the evidence and prepare recommendations.) As we go to press the report is available through www.who.int/reproductive-health/rtis/index.htm and also through: www.conrad.org.

2. "World Health Organization/Conrad Report Warns Against Use of Nonoxynol-9 As Microbicide," press statement issued June 25, available at the Web sites above.

Nonox-9 and "Non-Understanding"



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