A microbicide is a substance whose purpose is to reduce the infectivity of microbes, such as viruses or bacteria.
Enemas are commonly used by men who have sex with men (MSM) and transwomen (TW) before sexual intercourse.
But these groups are vulnerable to HIV and a host of other sexually transmitted infections because enemas can seriously damage the thin tissue lining the rectum, allowing for easier transmission of harmful viruses and bacteria.
"A douche-based rectal microbicide that is safe and effective could play an important role by providing another HIV prevention option for these highly vulnerable groups," said lead researcher Brandon Brown, assistant professor at University of California, Riverside, US.
"In view of the expanding global HIV epidemics in MSM and TW, there is an urgent and immediate need for novel HIV prevention options, such as the douche-based rectal microbicides we propose, that can be readily incorporated into existing sexual practices," Mr Brown noted.
For the study, the team examined the prevalence of enema use among 415 MSM and 68 TW in Lima during February 2012-February 2013, Peru.
Participants completed a self-administered interview on rectal douching practices to inform rectal microbicide douche development.
In the previous six months, 18 percent of participants reported rectal douching, and those who reported douching were mainly those who had some receptive sexual role.
"We found that men who douched prior to sex did it primarily for hygiene and pleasure. We should capitalise on these reasons to increase this practice and eventually include a rectal microbicide for HIV prevention," Mr Brown said.
The study was published in the journal AIDS and Behaviour.
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