Brussels 20 November 2003
Questions have arisen recently over whether the HIV virus can or cannot pass through pores in latex condoms. EU research projects provide extensive proof that this is not the case: if properly used, condoms are safe. Over the last 15 years, the Commission has supported about a dozen research initiatives in this field across Europe, as well as in Asia and Africa, the areas most affected by the AIDS pandemic. EU projects focused on condoms' potential porosity and quality standards, and included surveys of infection transmission in couples and prostitutes. Scientific evidence shows that condoms are the only effective protection against HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS kills over 3 million people every year, and the fight against this virus relies mostly on protective measures, including condoms.
European Research Commissioner Philippe
Busquin said: "I rely on statements that are based on sound
scientific evidence - and we can demonstrate that condoms are the
best way to prevent HIV infection. Statements not supported by sound
scientific evidence are not plausible."
"Condoms are part of the solution," added Commissioner
for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson. "The condemnation
of condoms is part of the problem."
A global killer
HIV/AIDS is the worst pandemic the world has ever faced. Every year,
five million people are infected with the virus, and over 3 million
die, most of them without receiving any treatment. The most affected
populations are the poorest, most vulnerable ones. The lack of effective
treatment against the virus is forcing all efforts to be concentrated
on prevention strategies, including the use of condoms.
With over 40 million HIV infected people in the world, prevention
measures have to be based on scientific evidence. During the last
15 years, the European Commission has financed several research
projects aimed at studying, (directly or indirectly), the use of
condoms as a preventive measure against sexually transmitted diseases,
including HIV/AIDS. These projects were carried out not only in
Europe, but also in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden
of the HIV epidemic is at its highest. All the studies concluded
that the male condom was an effective way of preventing the transmission
of HIV, with an efficacy close to 100% when the condom is used appropriately.
The security and effectiveness of barrier devices against HIV transmission
has also been evaluated in a project aimed at evaluating and comparing
methods to find holes in condoms. This EC-funded project, "Assessment
of methods for finding holes in condoms", analysed water, ion
and air permeability for setting quality control standard of condoms.
The conclusions of this study were used to standardise the evaluation
methods for producing safer and more secure condoms.
Sharply reducing risks
A European multi-centre study, funded by the European Commission
through several research projects including "AIDS: heterosexual
transmission" and "EC concerted action on the heterosexual
transmission of HIV", followed 563 couples with one seropositive
partner over 12-21 months. Out of 123 couples using condoms for
each instance of vaginal or anal intercourse, no seroconversions
occurred; 12 seroconversions occurred among 122 partners who did
not use condoms regularly. The consortium concluded that no HIV
transmission occurs among systematic condom users.
Another EU-funded project on 866 female prostitutes from European
countries, "HIV infection in female prostitutes", concluded
that the lack of condom use was associated with HIV infections.
The study also stated that petroleum-based lubricants could diminish
the efficacy of condoms.
For information on the thematic priority on life sciences, genomics
and biotechnology for health in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
of the European Union please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp6/p1/index_en.html
Research, DG Research
Tel : +32.2.299 87 33; E-Mail : Manuel.Romaris@ec.europa.eu
H. Wappelhorst, Press and Information Officer, Research
Tel.: +32.2.298 75 75, Fax: +32.2.295 82 20,
Fabbi, Commissioner Busquin's Spokesman, DG Press,
Tel + 32.2.296 41 74, Fax: +32.2.295 82 20, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org