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ECONOMIST. 1993 Nov 27 - Dec 3; 51.Promoting condom use alone is no effective against AIDS because many men do not like condoms and women, particularly adolescents, do not have the sexual bargaining power to demand condom use. WHO is calling for pharmaceutical companies to perfect microbicidal vaginal gels or sprays and to have them out on the market within 2 years. AIDS researchers have tended to ignore the potential of vaginal gels to protect against HIV. Vaginal gels have been available for decades. Most serve as contraceptive barriers, while others protect against sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., gonorrhea). Results of trials of the spermicide nonoxynol-9 in Cameroon and Zambia suggest that it protects against HIV transmission, but trials among prostitutes in Kenya suggest the opposite. In the Kenyan trials, nonoxynol-9 caused ulcers in some prostitutes, thereby facilitating HIV transmission. The president of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa points out that a product that can separate the contraceptive function from the microbicidal function is needed to be acceptable. She adds that people in developing countries want protection against AIDS but not against pregnancy, WHO could further their cause by saying that the Pope also wants protection against AIDS but not against pregnancy. Microbicides are not very profitable for pharmaceutical companies and are less attractive for researchers than genetically engineered drugs. The president of the African women's groups believes that researchers and pharmaceutical companies have not taken microbicides seriously over the last decade because men oppose any woman-controlled method. If a woman used an easily available gel and it failed to protect against HIV/AIDS, the failure would be her death sentence and would expose pharmaceutical companies to litigation. WHO understands why pharmaceutical companies are wary: US lawyers. The companies' apathy is understood when one adds a legal suit to the quagmire suffering of sex and research trials in developing countries.