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Lube that kills

Lube that kills


"Could you hand me the microbicide?" may not be the most erotic thing to say during sex, but with rates of HIV infection on the rise again it could save your life. Trumpeted in August at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto as a major new tool for prevention of HIV infection in women, microbicides that kill HIV could also be added to gels, lubricants, or creams to be applied during anal intercourse.

Jim Pickett, a leader in the International Rectal Microbicide Working Group, believes that making rectal microbicide products widely available could radically change gay men's fight against HIV infection. "Gay men deserve more than one method of protection from sexual transmission of HIV, something beyond latex," Pickett says. "The development of a safe, effective rectal microbicide would certainly reduce the amount of HIV infections among us and must be one of our top priorities."

Microbicides alone are not likely to be as effective as condoms and will be recommended as a supplement to barrier protection rather than a substitute for it. Yet the products could offer some substantial protection to individuals who refuse to use rubbers.

Microbicides are still being studied, so far only in women who have vaginal sex, but the results to date are promising. Completing testing, getting Food and Drug Administration approval, and creating marketable products will take at least four years and perhaps as much as 15. But Pickett has faith that the products will have a revolutionary impact: "Microbicides could be the hottest thing to ever happen to gay men's health."

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Mike McManus