Oz scientists are developing a new gel-based contraceptive that will protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as preventing pregnancy.
It's still at least a decade off, but Prof John Aitken said the gel could be applied to a small, pliable sponge and inserted in the vagina up to 48 hours before sexual intercourse.
AdvertisementAs soon as semen makes contact with the gel, the sperm are paralysed and any STI-causing organisms are killed.
At present, there are not any "local compounds" available that can be applied to prevent STIs, just the "classic" spermicide, which was a "crude inhibitor of fertility", Aitken said.
"Women who use a lot of this stuff, especially commercial sex workers, are significantly more likely to get HIV than women who don't use it ... it just destroys everything around it," the Herald Sun quoted him as saying.
"Most of the time you want both right. You want to be able to have intercourse in the safe knowledge you will neither get pregnant, nor will you catch some terrible microbe," he added.
Aitken, a reproductive scientist at the University of Newcastle in NSW, said the product being developed would be aimed at women between the ages of 15 and 25.