"As you all know, about three of the lubes on the market kill the AIDS virus…" (Monday, December 4th, 2006)

So someone on a uk bi list posted recently, naming one, 'Silken Secret'.

My first reaction on reading that was "Erm, what would do that, apart from spermicide?" (Which I hope you all know is a no-no for this as the damage it does to the skin – the main one was originally designed as an industrial cleaner – outweighs any theoretical benefits to such an extent that it can lead to more infections amongst frequent users!)

But a quick Google reveals that there was indeed a study published in 2001 which named Astroglide (Silken Secret is the same stuff except in an applicator), Vagisil and ViAmor as including 'two' substances which had an effect on HIV in a test tube over 24 hours. It got quite a bit of coverage at the time.

Helpfully, the journal in which this was published is currently free (for all of December only) so you can look it up for free:

What I found particularly odd is how few other articles have cited this one. If it really was significant, I'd expect rather more than five in the past five years. (Journals have a vested interest in pointing out how often their articles are cited elsewhere, so they tend to be good at listing as many as they can.)

The other odd thing was how few other sexual lubricants there were in their tests. Most of the rest of the 22 listed are 'mild vinegar' douches!

So it was off to the Astroglide website, which lists the ingredients for Silken Secret, and I couldn't see anything that's obviously different from lots of other lubes. They also don't make any 'kills HIV' claims for it either.

..and looking up one of the five articles that references this study, it looks like I was right: it's that they were lubricants (as opposed to, say, douches) which is significant, rather than any inherent quality of those three named lubricants.

Someone else looked at a different variety of lubes and vaginal treatments and found they all had the same basic effect. KY Jelly is the most famous one the second survey rather than the first.

They also looked at what ingredients had this effect and considered that most had some effect, but it was the gelling agents that had the most effect.

As two of the three products (three out of four, considering that Astroglide = Silken Secret) in the first study were by the same manufacturer, I wonder if they did some PR to push the results to give their products a boost.

Incidentally, another one of the five articles is about finding a neutral placebo product to test against in such trials. They killed a lot of bunny rabbits (to look at the effects on rabbit vaginas of their candidates) and infected quite a few primates (just to make sure it had no preventative effect) before coming up with something. Ah, the joys of medical research.

And the other one of the five studies to cite the original one was about being cruel to mice, erm, giving them Ketamine (!) and then sticking various lubricants up their bottoms to see what effect that had (!!)*

Interestingly, the three lubes mentioned as having some adverse effect on (mouse) rectal tissue – though not as bad as spermicide – were… Silken Secret, Vagisil and ViAmor. Oops.

Oddly enough 🙂 the makers have kept bloody quiet about this study but, again, those three were the only three sexual lubes tested (out of seven substances: two spermicides, these three, a designed-to-be-neutral placebo and a proposed new lube) and it's quite possible most have the same effect.

Moral of the story? Look up the original report and don't trust the press release.

Oh, and try to do your research without killing primates in particular, and mammals in general.

(*) But reading the Sigma Research reports on their annual sex surveys, I suppose that taking K and sticking lube up their bottom does indeed reflect the reality of life for some gay men 🙂

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