UK campaign to remove Nonoxynol-9 from condoms and lubricants

Graham McKerrow, HIV i-Base

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has launched a campaign for the removal of Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) from condoms and lubricants sold in the UK. N-9 is a detergent ingredient previously thought to have microbicidal properties.

NAT is lobbying the department of Health, regulatory authorities, British manufacturers, retailers and health promotion agencies, calling for an end to the production and distribution of condoms and lubricants containing N-9 and clarification on “the proper and limited use” of N-9 contraceptives. They are also calling for greater investment in the search for a safe, effective and affordable microbicide.

In an open letter to manufacturers, distributors and public authorities, NAT and seven specialists and eight other organisations say: “We are concerned that many people mistakenly believe that N-9 provides extra protection against HIV and STIs when used rectally, when in fact there is reason to think that the use of N-9 may increase risk of infection.”

The launch of the campaign coincides with the publication in the journal AIDS of a new survey of 573 men who have sex with men (MSM) in California. The researchers found that 61% of participants had heard of N-9 and 83% of those had used it at some point. Of those, 67% had knowingly used N-9 during anal intercourse in the previous year. Of those who had used N-9 in the last year, 41% did so without using a condom because they believed or hoped it was protective.

Scientists have reported studies that have found N-9 was not protective against urogenital gonorrhea or Chlamydia infection and that it causes rectal mucosa disruption in humans, which may increase risk for HIV infection during anal intercourse.

The authors of the California survey write: “All MSM need to know about the dangers of using N-9 rectally.” And they add: “Agencies and communities should work together to remove N-9 from products, venues, and websites that predominately serve MSM.” They also call on manufacturers to provide warning labels specific to the rectal use of N-9 products.


Mansergh G, Marks G, Rader M et al. Rectal use of Nonoxynol-9 among men who have sex with men. AIDS (04.11.03) Vol. 17; No. 6: P. 905-909

The NAT campaign briefing can be downloaded at:

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