Spotlight Center on HIV Prevention Today


Can a Gel to Prevent HIV Be Applied as a Lube?

March 17, 2016

Rectal microbicide applicator. (Slide: Eugenie Shieh, M.D.)

Rectal microbicide applicator. (Slide: Eugenie Shieh, M.D.)

Rectal microbicide gels, applied either daily or before and after sex, are currently being investigated as an option for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Given that many people who have anal sex already use lube, one hope is for an HIV-prevention product that people could essentially use in place of a lube. But can gels provide enough coverage across rectal tissue if people don't use an applicator?

Studies of rectal tenofovir microbicide gels, such as the MTN-017 study, provide rectal-specific applicators for people to use to insert the gel. Although applicators deliver a precise dose, they may challenge product acceptability by being bulky, inconvenient and unappealing to users.

"Use of applicators does not mimic real world lubricant use during sex," explained Eugenie Shieh, M.D., from The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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