Rubber Up!

Chapter 3

Choosing The Right Brands

Are spermicides a good idea?

Most condom brands come coated with a small amount of lubricant inside their foil wrappers. In many cases, this also contains a spermicide called nonoxynol-9. Nonoxynol-9 kills sperm cells on contact, so if the condom should leak or break during sex, it should provide an added level of protection against accidental pregnancy.

As well as killing sperm, laboratory tests show that nonoxynol-9 also kills many micro-organisms, including HIV itself. In theory, therefore, using spermicidally lubricated condoms should also reduce the risk of HIV transmission should the condom accidentally break.

In practice, itís not as clear-cut. Many gay men find that nonoxynol-9 or other spermicides act as irritants, causing soreness of the sensitive lining of their arse. Even if you donít feel any soreness, itís possible that nonoxynol is causing inflammation. This could make these mucous membranes more susceptible to infection if the condom were to break.

In recent years the major condom manufacturers have removed nonoxynol-9 from the lubricant coating their extra strong brands. You can check whether a particular brand contains a spermicide simply by looking for the words ďSpermicidally lubricatedĒ on the packet. Several brands of water-based lubricant also contain spermicides, so remember also to check the packaging when youíre shopping for lube.