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'Invisible Condom' in the Works

WebMD Health News

June 7, 2000 -- Researchers are gearing up to start a human study for the "invisible condom," a gel, invisible to the woman's partner, that they hope will protect women against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.

"It is a gel that is liquid at room temperature and becomes a gel at body temperature. ... It can be applied [into the vagina] by a woman and can act as a physical barrier and also as a chemical barrier against STDs. It is invisible to the other partner -- we don't expect that men will feel the difference," project manager André Desormeaux, PhD, of Laval University in Québec, Canada, tells WebMD. The data so far show the gel is effective at blocking HIV, and the researchers are ready to start testing it for safety in humans this fall.

There's more. "We believe that the gel formulation we have now [will also prevent pregnancy]," says Desormeaux, a professor of microbiology. "Of course, we've done studies with animals, but we never know in humans, so this has to be further investigated."

Why an invisible condom? "For sure, the male latex condom is the best protection against HIV and STDs, and it is what we favor," says Desormeaux. "The problem is that some people will not wear the latex condom, [in particular] in developing countries. So there is no alternative for women to protect themselves." Desormeaux and colleagues hope that the invisible condom will fill that crucial need.

"Of course in developing countries, they don't have money to buy this stuff," says Desormeaux, so maybe we can we work with the [World Health Organization] to give or subsidize this to the people. In America and in Europe, I think the price will be about the same as the male latex condom or even cheaper."

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