Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chatting with TheBody.com about Lubricants and the Development of Anal Microbicides

Jim Pickett chats up lubes with Bonnie Goldman

At the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City last month, TheBody's Bonnie Goldman asked Jim Pickett of IRMA to discuss IRMA's poster - "International Lubricant Use Behaviors for Anal Intercourse: Focus on Women."

Here is how the chat began:

[Jim] In 2007, IRMA did a huge survey on lubricants used for anal sex, in which we had about 9,000 people respond from 107 countries, in six languages (including 1,000 in Turkish -- who would have ever known?). Out of all of those who responded, we had 911 women respond. From those, 428 reported that they had engaged in anal intercourse or anal sex with toys in the last six months.

The poster looks at those [428 women]. It shows how they use lubricant [lube] -- or if they don't use lubricant -- as well as some interesting behavioral things. For instance, we found that most women don't really want lube with flavor, color or smell. They equally like lube consistency to be either thick or thin, and they also would like a silicone-based formulation.

Interestingly -- in terms of getting a sense of how people use lubricants -- is the substances we found that people add to their lube. This is interesting in terms of potential rectal microbicides in the future, which is really what this is about. A large number of people indicated that they added vaginal fluid to their lube, or saliva, or water. What does that mean in terms of testing for efficacy and safety? We're going to have to figure out how to do that in the lab, because vaginal fluid could very much change some of the properties [of a rectal microbicide]. Maybe it enhances it. Maybe it makes it something toxic. That was an interesting "Aha!" moment: We can't just test the actual product; we have to test it in the ways that people are really using it, before we get to people really using it.

[Bonnie] It's curious to me that you're studying lubricant use. Is that a critical part of figuring out aspects of future rectal microbicides? What's the connection?

[Jim] A rectal microbicide could very well be formulated as a lubricant. There would be some kind of chemical or agent put into a lube that would provide protection against HIV. It could also be delivered rectally through an enema, a douche, a suppository. We were sussing out, in the overall, huge survey [of both men and women], how people use lubes and what lubes they use, to figure out how acceptable it would be, among both populations, to use a lube for [anal sex].

We really wanted to get a sense of what lubes people were using because, in fact -- and this could be another project, for more researchers -- lubes that we use for sex aren't tested for safety. These are FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]-regulated products, but they are not testing them for safety. They're considered cosmetic, even though they're going "in" places [in people's bodies] and staying there.

So we wanted to get a sense of what people are actually using, and then push researchers -- such as at Population Council, or wherever -- to test them. We need safety data on lubes that we're already using.

Microbicides are the next step, or a couple steps away. We need information on lubes right now.

Read the rest on TheBody.com.

Check out the abstract and additional info on the poster.

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