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close this bookConsultation on Re-use of the Female Condom (UNAIDS, 2000, 2 p.)
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View the documentBackground
View the documentConsultation on Re-use of the Female Condom
View the documentAvailable Evidence and Unresolved Questions
View the documentConclusions

Available Evidence and Unresolved Questions

The consultation reviewed relevant data, including the two sets of studies which have been conducted to date on re-use of the female condom. These studies investigated the structural integrity and microbial retention of female condoms which had been used, washed with soap and water and, in one study, re-used.

There is currently insufficient evidence available to determine whether a broad range of sexually transmitted pathogens, including HIV, can be inactivated and safely removed with a soap and water wash alone. Experts in microbiology were of the opinion that washing with soap and water alone could present potential risks to women during washing and/or to them or their partner during subsequent use.

While disinfection of the female condom has not been studied, it was agreed that standard disinfection procedures (e.g., soaking in a bleach solution), followed by washing with soap and water and drying, would be likely to inactivate and remove sexually transmitted pathogens from the device. However, concerns remain that disinfecting condoms may adversely affect their structural integrity.

The available evidence suggests that the structural integrity of the female condom can withstand several washes in soap and water, drying, relubrication and re-use. However, the studies also suggest that such condoms may be more likely to have holes than new condoms.

Normal vaginal flora provide important natural protection against infection. Disruption to normal vaginal flora can increase the risk for acquisition of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Available data indicate that use of new female condoms does not lead to changes in the normal vaginal flora. However, there are no data concerning the effect on normal vaginal flora of any residuals from disinfecting or washing with soap, or damage or contamination resulting from storing or relubricating.