Lube Safety for Anal Sex

July 2011

Recent research has resulted in confusion about whether lubricants increase, reduce or have no effect on the risk of infection from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during anal sex.

The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) continues to recommend the use of water-based or silicone-based lubricant with condoms for anal sex, and calls for more research into the effects of lube on rectal tissue.

Lubricant that is compatible for use with condoms (water-based or silicone-based) has been proven to decrease the risk of condoms breaking or slipping off. When condoms are used correctly and consistently, they provide the most effective protection against HIV and other STIs during anal sex.

Some studies have tested the effects of lubricants on rectal tissue – some in the laboratory and one on humans – and have concluded that certain types of lubricant can cause damage to rectal tissue. The reasons are not yet clear. Damage to the rectal tissue could increase vulnerability to STIs (including HIV) if a condom is not used.