A spermicide said to kill the AIDS virus will soon be offered to rape victims treated at the Carroll County General Hospital emergency department.
Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Michael A. Stang said he must send a proposal through several hospital committees before the practice of offering Nonoxynol-9 becomes part of the official protocol for treating rape victims.
In the meantime, he said, he has encouraged the emergency physicians to offer the spermicide, which has been available for decades in over-the-counter foams, gels, creams and lubricated condoms for contraception.
"The risk of transmission is under 1 percent for a single sex act, but it's still there," Stang said.
"My personal feeling is, anything that helps, use it," said Christine Frey, volunteer coordinator of the Rape Crisis Intervention Center of Carroll County. "Even if it isn't all that helpful, if it gives a person confidence at that point, I'm in favor of it."
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome can be spread through sexual contact. Lab tests show that Nonoxynol-9 kills the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. It doesn't cure the disease, but if used right after sexual contact, it can kill the virus before a new person is infected.
"I feel very positive about Nonoxynol-9," Stang said, although he stressed it cannot guarantee the person won't be infected.
Stang said the idea to offer the spermicide came from Baltimore County Health Department coordinator Ilene Foster, who approached him earlier this year to ask how the treatment could be used without affecting evidence needed for prosecution.
Foster contacted Stang as an emergency medicine expert after meeting him professionally, he said.
Although health educators promote the use of Nonoxynol-9 with condoms to prevent AIDS infection, no one had thought to offer the treatment to rape victims after an attack, Stang said, until Foster raised the issue statewide.
The hospital has a detailed process based on state guidelines for treating rape cases, and must get the victim's consent before calling police, he said.
Evidence such as blood and vaginal fluids is gathered with a special kit provided by police. Stang said the only test the Nonoxynol-9 might affect is the measurement of sperm movement to determine when it was deposited.
He said physicians would administer the spermicide as soon as they and nurses have gathered evidence, which takes about 30 minutes. The foam can be inserted into the vagina, rectum or other areas where the person was attacked.
Stang said the emergency department would not start testing victims for AIDS, but will continue to tell patients that confidential testing is available from their doctors or free at the Carroll County Department of Health.
State law requires that people be counseled before taking the test and when they get the results. Stang said the emergency department has neither the staff nor the time to do that counseling.
Frey said testing victims just after an attack is "pointless" because the infection wouldn't show up that quickly.
The hospital does test rape victims for gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, and encourages them to take antibiotics even before the results come in, Stang said.