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Study: Lubricants May Raise Infection Risk During Anal Sex

Study: Lubricants May Raise Infection Risk During Anal Sex
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May 26, 2010 12:45 PM PDT    Text size: 
PITTSBURGH — A new report suggests that using lubricants during unprotected anal sex may raise the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.

Researchers at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine conducted two new studies, focusing on the fact that HIV infection risk rises if other infections are already present in the rectal lining of the receptive partner, the researchers said.

The first two-year study, based on approximately 900 people, observed that men and women who use lubricants in general are three times more likely to have some form of a rectal sexually transmitted infection.

Most participants, 76 percent, said they used a water-based lubricant, while 28 percent used silicon-based products, 17 percent used oil-based lubricants and six percent used a numbing lubricant.

The second study was conducted by reproductive specialist Charlene Dezzutti at the University of Pittsburg. Her team, including collaborators from International Rectal Microbicides Advocates, studied the effects of six most popular lubricants on rectal cells and tissues.

They found that some of the lubricants had a toxic effect on cells and rectal tissue. Researchers found high concentrations of dissolved salts and sugars that draw water out of cells, weakening and even killing the cells. Some of the lubricants even stripped away the layer of cells that serve as a protective barrier.

PRE and Wet Platinum were found to be the safest lubricants in terms of toxicity, while Astroglide and KY Jelly appeared to be the most problematic. ID Glide and Elbow Grease had intermediate effects, the team found. None of the lubricants was found to have measurable anti-HIV activity.

Lubricant safety advocates say conclusions can’t be made based on these small studies.

"Further research is absolutely necessary to understand the potential role of sexual lubricants in HIV transmission,” said Marc-Andre LeBlanc of IRMA. “We should be able to provide consumer guidance regarding lubes that are found to be safer than others."

"We must ensure that existing lubes don't facilitate HIV transmission," IRMA chair Jim Pickett said. "People have a right to this kind of information, and it's very past due."

According to IRMA, statistics suggest that as many as 90 percent of gay men practice anal sex and 35 percent of women have participated in anal sex at least once. The majority of sexes are thought to use lubricants more often than condoms.

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