Objectives: Compared with other sexually active adults, men who have sex with men (MSM) are more frequently infected with several pathogens including cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B virus, and Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. Because one common element between these organisms is their presence in saliva, we evaluated saliva exposure among MSM in a heretofore relatively unrecognized route-via use of saliva as a lubricant in anal sex.
Methods: MSM in a San Francisco population-based cohort were interviewed regarding use of saliva by the insertive partner as a lubricant in various anal sexual practices.
Results: Among 283 MSM, 87% used saliva as a lubricant in insertive or receptive penile-anal intercourse or fingering/fisting at some point during their lifetime; 31%-47% did so, depending upon the act, in the prior 6 months. Saliva use as a lubricant was more common among younger men and among HIV-infected men when with HIV-infected partners. Even among MSM following safe sex guidelines by avoiding unprotected penile-anal intercourse, 26% had anal exposure to saliva via use as a lubricant.
Conclusions: Among MSM, use of saliva as a lubricant is a common, but not ubiquitous, practice in anal sex. The findings provide the rationale for formal investigation of whether saliva use in this way contributes to transmission of saliva-borne pathogens in MSM.