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FDA Label Proposal: Condoms Not Perfect

Latex Condoms Don't Always Prevent Pregnancy or Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 11, 2005 -- The FDA is proposing that latex condom packaging carry labels noting that condoms don't provide perfect protection against pregnancy, HIV, or sexually transmitted diseases.

The proposals state that using latex condoms can reduce -- but not eliminate -- the risk of pregnancy and transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The proposals also address latex condoms containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9. According to the FDA, that spermicide may irritate the vagina or rectum, which could increase the chances of contracting HIV from an HIV-infected partner.

In addition, the proposals note that condoms leave some male genital skin exposed, which could permit transmission of herpes or other STDs.

The proposals haven't been approved yet. A draft of the proposals is posted on the FDA's web site.

Expert's Perspective

Lawrence Friedman, MD, director of adolescent medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, spoke with WebMD about the proposed labeling and condom use.

"I think people realize that nothing is forever or always or 100%," Friedman tells WebMD. "It is true that condoms don't prevent fully all of the possible STDS or other germs that could be transmitted through sex."

Still, Friedman says he would "definitely recommend, with exclamation points and underlines, the use of condoms for vaginal, oral, and anal contact."

"Even with these few shortcomings, the condom still is important for reducing the chances of causing a pregnancy or having sexually transmitted infections and HIV," Friedman says.

Friedman says condoms must also be used stored and used properly, before the expiration date, to be effective.

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