Barrier Methods

Gel To Stop Stds Holds Empty Promise

  • Gels can be considered a barrier or a chemical method of birth control. They do not prevent ovulation, but rather the primary action is to kill sperm.
  • BufferGelTM, a new contraceptive to block ‘sperm and germs’ , according to scientists, will begin clinical efficacy trials at the National Institutes of Health’s Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network on 1,000 women in the USA.

John Diggs, M.D.: "The company tries to present the gel as a new phase in the battle against [STDs]. The recurrent news releases about one gel or another to stop STDs were first noted about one year ago. Coincidentally, at the time, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) was authoring a meta-analysis of condom research that exposed the absence of science to show condoms can quell the worldwide STD epidemic. This was big news. If the idea of ‘safe sex’ or ‘protected intercourse’ were to be maintained, one of two things needed to happen. One, condoms needed to dramatically improve as a public health intervention. Failing that, a new technology needed to come to the forefront.

"BufferGelTM is billed as one of the new products that will revolutionize STD prevention. Closer inspection reveals this it holds all the promise of Al Capone’s empty vault."

"The most obvious observation is that the gel has yet to be shown effective. More than two years ago, at least four different gels, including BufferGelTM were thought to show promise; but protection against STDs is still unproven in any of them.

"Second, the gel is not an independent product. It still requires the use of a vaginal diaphragm, a product that has fallen into disfavor for good reasons. Its knack for looking like and acting like a Frisbee is certainly one of them. Changing the type of gel will not enhance its popularity.

"The gel is described as putting control for STD prevention in female hands. Hmm. It always has been in female control in the sense that she can say ‘no.’ On the other hand, if a struggle for STD control is underway, then it is clear the couple shouldn’t be sexually involved.

"The gel with a 20-year promotional history of stopping STDs was finally unmasked at the 13th International AIDS Conference (July 2000) where it was reported that nonoxynol-9 very likely increased the transmission of HIV. Women in four countries were shown to have higher rates of HIV if they used nonoxynol-9 than those who did not. Lest one miss the full impact of the last sentence, those women who contracted HIV in the study are already dead or dying and probably infecting their children who will die shortly. Very few people in South Africa, Benin, Thailand or Ivory Coast get treated for AIDS.

"For two decades, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other national and international health agencies have been touting nonoxynol-9 as key in preventing HIV. Evidence that it may increase STD transmission has been available for about nine years but was not publicized.

"Unfortunately, so many organizations are desperate to enable laissez-faire sex that they cover-up the illness and death that ideology produces. Promises of gels that will stop STDs are prematurely released to instill hope that yes, there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. The CDC failure to warn Americans of the dangers of nonoxynol-9, and the CDC’s ongoing refusal to endorse the findings of the NIAID that revealed lack of scientific evidence of condom effectiveness are two smoldering examples.

"Consequently, the public is forced to question all promises of new technology that makes promiscuous sex safe. Nature has a way of smacking down attempts to get around the axiom that sex is best and healthiest when reserved for marriage.

"The new gels have new mechanisms but no proven effect. They are still messy, and still require the use of a diaphragm. Don’t hold your breath waiting for promiscuity to become safe. Best to not get addicted to it in the first place.Save sex for marriage."

 [emphasis added][Abstinence Clearinghouse, E-Mail Update, 11Jan02 John R. Diggs, Jr., MD]