Are lubes safe?

Published: June 17, 2013

Here I am again, standing in front of a giant wall of lube options at a local store.
 •Water-based, silicone-based, oil-based, hybrid.
 •Bottles, tubs, tubes, vats, vials, sachets, packets, pouches, pillows, mix-it-at-home kits.
 •Pumpable, flippable, squeezable, scoopable, squirtable, spritzable, speadable.
 •Regular, warming, cooling, tingling, numbing.
 •Thick, thin, goopy, watery, greasy, sticky, slippery, silky, slick.
 •Long lists of unpronounceable chemicals, claims of being organic or all-natural.
 •Scents. Flavours. Colours.
 •Formulated to look like cum!
 •And of course, wildly varying prices.
I’m glad I’m not meeting that guy for another three hours.

So which lube should I get? Which ones are safe? Which ones should I avoid?

Who knows!
No, seriously. Who knows? If I don’t, I can only assume nobody else does. After all, I coordinate the global Lube Safety Working Group for IRMA—International Rectal microbicide Advocates.

This is the shocking reality: more than 30 years into the HIV pandemic, we still have no clear answers on whether sexual lubricants (lubes) increase, decrease, or have no impact on the risk of acquiring HIV and other STIs sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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

One thing is clear: we will not get an answer to the lube safety question without advocacy.

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