Questions around lubricant safety might finally get an answer

Global coalition of organizations and individuals calls for research agenda to determine safety of sexual lubricants
Over 500 organizations and individuals from nearly 60 countries have endorsed a Global Call to Action on Lubricant Safety. They all demand answers on whether sexual lubricants are safe for vaginal and anal intercourse. As the Call to Action points out, there are more questions than answers about the safety of sexual lubricants, and there are concerns that some of the products available on store shelves and at community-based organizations worldwide may actually cause harm.

International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA) launched the call to action, which prominent organizations across the globe subsequently endorsed, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights in the U.S., the Microbicide Trials Network, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, Terrence Higgins Trust, the Canadian AIDS Society, Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, Citizen News Service - CNS, Vote For Health campaign and numerous other organizations devoted to sexual health and HIV prevention.

Several lubricant manufacturers—such as Trigg Laboratories (makers of WET), Davryan Laboratories (PROBE), Gel Works Pty (Wet Stuff), The Yes Yes Company (Yes), and Abra Advanced Research International Pte (SuperSlyde)—also joined this overwhelming global demand for answers on lubricant safety.

"After more than thirty years of the HIV pandemic, we still have no clear answers on whether sexual lubricants increase, decrease, or have no impact on the risk of acquiring HIV and other STIs," said Marc-André LeBlanc, coordinator of IRMA’s International Lubricant Safety Working Group. "This is unacceptable. We urgently need a Lubricant Safety Research Agenda that will provide answers on lubricant safety."

"Many men, women and transgender individuals all across the globe use sexual lubricants for both vaginal and anal intercourse," said Jim Pickett, IRMA chair. "Public health has long promoted the use of condoms with condom-compatible water-based or silicone-based lubricants to prevent HIV and other STIs. Lubricants help ensure condoms don’t break, and that condoms stay on during sex. So, it’s pretty critical we understand if any of these condom-compatible lubricants could actually be putting people in harm’s way."

There are hundreds of different sexual lubricants on the market; however, researchers have only tested a few for tissue damage and to preliminarily assess potential impact on HIV and STIs. Because of this and relatively inconclusive results, it is nearly impossible to recommend or argue against specific brands of water-based or silicone-based lubricants.

While releasing this list of endorsers, IRMA continues to promote the development of a lubricant safety research agenda in partnership with advocates, researchers, and manufacturers across the globe. IRMA is working closely with key partners, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is conducting lube safety research, and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is developing a Lube Safety Research Agenda with its Scientific Advisory Board.

IRMA eagerly awaits the release of data from the CDC’s latest study and PEPFAR’s Lube Safety Research Agenda. The new data and a PEPFAR -endorsed research agenda will move the lube safety issue forward.

"As a lubricant manufacturer, we are committed to working with advocates, funders, researchers and regulators to develop the safest possible products," stated Sarah Brooks, CEO of Yes Yes Company Ltd. "That is why we enthusiastically endorse the Global Call to Action on Lubricant Safety. We want to be active partners by lending our expertise as a lubricant manufacturer."

Citizen News Service - CNS
June 2013