New Study on Lubricants: Reasons for Concern

A forthcoming research report suggests a number of personal lubricants can damage anal tissue cells and increase HIV replication, potentially heightening the risk of contracting HIV, notably if condoms aren’t used. 
We have known for a while now that the research on personal lubricants has been severely lacking. Very little safety data has been required before personal lubricants have been put on the market. We don't know how these lubricants interact with the sensitive skin of the vagina/rectum/mouth. Are some better than others? Do some increase the risk of HIV or other STI transmission? 
A study was just released by the HIV/AIDS Division of the Population Council (New York) compared 41 over-the- counter lubricants to two substances (Carraguard, which does not harm the mucous membranes; and Gynol a-substance that contains non-oxynol-9, a substance known to harm mucous membranes). This is a very preliminary study and it remains unclear whether any lubricant might increase the risk of HIV transmission. They found:
*all of the lubes, compared with Carraguard, damaged the mucous membrane cells in test-tube tissue samples
*Only one of the lubes (Probe Personal) had a similar profile to Carraguard -- all of the others either dried out the cells or caused them to swell with fluid (causing them to burst)
*none of the lubricants had HIV-inhibiting qualities that approached that of Carraguard. Four Astroglide brand lubricants actually appeared to increase HIV replication in cell cultures. Subsequent testing of lube ingredients led the researchers to suspect that polyquaternium-15 might be the cause.
Conclusions: These are very preliminary results and much more research is needed looking at both the vagina and the rectum. "Ultimately, the use of condoms is the best way to prevent transmission, but using a lubricant will help prevent condom breakage. So, if you are using a latex condom using a lubricant is still the best option --- but be sure you store and use the condom properly to make sure the condom doesn't break....and don't use oil/cream based lubricants...just water based. (learn more here). If you are using lubricant and no condom, understand the risks.......there may be some lubes that are better than others but we don't know which yet....and some lubes probably increase the risk of transmission in the absence of condoms.
A more indepth article on the study @ (

To read more on the safety of personal lubricants for rectal use, read IRMA’s Q&A for HIV educators and advocates.




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