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Blog: The marginalization of lubricant

JOHANNESBURG, 13 February 2009 (IRIN) - On Valentines Day, happy couples all over the world will be cozying up, dimming the lights and turning on Marvin Gaye - much to the chagrin of their single counterparts everywhere. But what if - when the moment is just right - the unthinkable happens?

Your partner slides on a condom, only to spit on it! That "moment" will pack its toothbrush and disappear out the door.

According to a study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) this month, almost 90 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) have resorted to using their own saliva as a lubricant in the absence of conventional water-based varieties – nearly one-quarter of them while practicing what would otherwise be safe sex. It's not a pretty thought.

When used with latex condoms, water-based lubricants like Astroglide and KY Jelly can help prevent condom breakage and thus aid the prevention of HIV transmission.

Saliva, when used as a lubricant, may not be sufficient to protect the condom from friction and tears, and may even present a vector for the transmission of diseases like Hepatitis B.

So, if a quarter of these men were striving to protect themselves by using a condom, why would they not also get lube? And now that I think of it, when last were you handed a free condom and lube?

If whole groups of people can be marginalised, then maybe safer sex strategies can be too – the female condom, lubricant. Some go out of fashion, but others - like lubricant – never even made it onto the mainstream catwalks of our sex lives. Why? Because conventional wisdom says lubricant means anal sex, and anal sex is the kind of sex that is, well, still a long way from that catwalk.

In short, anal sex is still "a gay thing". Or is it?

A survey by the US Centres for Disease Control in 2002 said that about 40 percent of straight men and 35 percent of straight woman reported having had anal sex by their mid-40s.

So then, lubricant = anal sex = ? This Valentine's Day, maybe it's time we rethink the equation, and some of our misconceptions.

llg/kn

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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