Consumer Watchdog Group To Lobby for Higher Standards for Synthetic Condoms at International Standardization Conference
Consumer watchdog group Consumers International on Sunday said that the new efficacy standards proposed for synthetic condoms, designed for people with allergies to latex condoms, may result in reduced protection from unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. Currently, there are "no standards" for such plastic condoms, according to CI, but the International Organization for Standardization will be reviewing proposals next week at a conference in Malaysia. According to CI Director General Julian Edwards, it is "vital" that the new standards for synthetic condoms be "just as good and preferably better than the existing standards for latex condoms." Edwards added that research suggests that synthetic condoms may "perform less securely" than latex condoms, and CI is "pressing" for a 1% breakage rate for synthetic condoms in laboratory tests. The acceptable breakage rate for latex condoms is 1.5%. If manufacturers of synthetic condoms cannot meet higher standards, such condoms should "be withdrawn from general distribution and sold with labels stating clearly that they are for people with latex allergies," Edwards said. CI also plans to encourage condom labelling changes, with "medium, large and extra large" replaced with penis circumference and length measurements to "ensure a better fit." In addition, the group wants condom shelf life to be reduced from five years to three years to prevent condoms from "degrad[ing] during storage in hot, humid climates" (Reaney, Reuters, 7/7).
Condoms Still 'Best Remedy' for HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Op-Ed Says
Although condoms are likely to get "scarce attention" at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona this week, they are still the "best remedy" for controlling the epidemic, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, head of the clinical infectious disease division at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, says in a New York Times opinion piece. "Inevitabl[y]," public interest and press will focus on the "most high-tech approaches" to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as AIDS researchers' "goal" is a "scientific strategy for vaccine development so that inoculation can begin before the end of this decade." However, the condom, "devoid of scientific drama" and not "scientifically sophisticated," is the only means shown to slow sexual transmission of HIV, Sepkowitz says, adding, "Right now, the condom works better at controlling the spread of HIV than any AIDS vaccine, medication, injection, vitamin or prayer that has been tried." Condoms receive "little ... fanfare" because "many people are still sheepish about condoms," Sepkowitz says. Although "universal[ly]," men "frown" on condoms, the United States is particularly "condom-phobi[c]," partially because discussion of condoms requires discussion of sex, an "extremely difficult subject," Sepkowitz says. In addition, the United States has a "fatal attraction to the newest thing" and assumes that "the biggest public health calamity of the last century" needs a "more technologically correct" approach than the condom, which was used in ancient Egypt and Rome. The "answer to controlling the AIDS epidemic in the immediate future is not stronger medications or better vaccines," Sepkowitz concludes, adding that "today, the best remedy already sits on store shelves, as it has for the entire 21 years of the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic" (Sepkowitz, New York Times, 7/7).