California assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) this week introduced a bill in the assembly to urge the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban condoms and other lubricants that contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9 because of research data that suggests the compound makes HIV infection easier, reports the Bay Area Reporter. The bill is coauthored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and six other state lawmakers. N-9 has been shown in several studies to damage the epithelial cells lining the anus and vagina, which makes it easier for HIV to enter the tissues.
"America's three largest condom brands--Trojan, Lifestyles, and Durex--have refused to remove N-9 from their products despite scientific evidence that N-9 increases the risk of HIV and other infections," Koretz said. "To protect public health, I urge the FDA to ban the sale of condoms and sexual lubricants with the additive N-9. I also call on manufacturers to stop producing N-9 condoms and ask retailers to stop selling these harmful products." The bill has been referred to the assembly's health committee.
A recent study in San Francisco shows that gay men remain confused over the use of N-9. Men interviewed in 2000 at multiple locations in San Francisco and through community-based agencies in the city showed that only 55% of the men surveyed knew that the compound makes HIV infection easier. The rest either believed N-9 protected against HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases or had no information about the compound at all. Of the men who reported using lubricants containing N-9 during the previous year, 41% said they specifically chose a lubricant containing N-9 to use instead of condoms for HIV protection during anal intercourse.
"All men who have sex with men need to know about the dangers of using N-9 rectally," the study authors wrote in the journal AIDS. "HIV care providers and prevention specialists should actively support public health warnings and disseminate information to reduce rectal use of N-9. Health officials should develop targeted educational campaigns to reduce consumer demand for N-9 products and increase demand for N-9-free lubricants and condoms among MSM. Agencies and communities should work together to remove N-9 from products, venues, and Web sites that predominately serve MSM."