The Gates Foundation Promotes Building Better Condoms

Condoms_Robert ElyovThis might be the father and mother of all contests from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: a challenge to come up with the “next generation” of condom.

That’s right, wrap your head around this, according to a foundation press release: “Quite simply, condoms save lives but new thinking is needed to ensure that men and women around the world are using them consistently and correctly to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.”

So earlier this year, the philanthropic organization delved into the prophylactic world when it launched the next generation condom contest. People were encouraged to erect a better condom, with an emphasis on new models that “preserve or enhance sensation.” Now that would be sensational, because it’s estimated that just five percent of men use condoms, mainly because they say this type of birth control/safe sex method is a downer when it comes to pleasure.

“These projects are working to improve uptake and regular use of male and female condoms by developing new condoms that significantly preserve or enhance pleasure and by developing better packaging or designs that are easier to properly use,” the foundation said.

People all over the world were demonstrably excited to participate in the Gates’ contest, which features an award up to $1 million in funding to develop and distribute the winning, standout condom. More than 812 different ideas were submitted and the foundation last week announced 11 winning designs that will move to the next round. The first-round winners will get $100,000 each to start developing their ideas.

Projects include:

• Benjamin Strutt and a team from Cambridge Design Partnership in the United Kingdom will design a male condom out of a composite material that will provide a universal fit and is designed to gently tighten during intercourse, enhancing sensation and reliability.
• Willem van Rensburg of Kimbranox Ltd. in South Africa will test a condom applicator, the Rapidom, which is designed for easy, technique-free application of male condoms. Kimbranox will test an applicator designed to be applied with one motion, thereby minimizing interruption.
• A team from San Diego used animal parts such as beef tendon and fish scraps to create a thin condom that feels more like human skin than typical latex versions. (Ewwww!)

And, of course, there are submissions made with “superelastomers” that don’t tear as easily as latex and that might even be cheaper to produce.

No, this is not a joke or an early April Fool’s prank – this is serious science (OK, sort of serious) about lubrication, friction and, well, heat transfer.

An effective condom that’s safe, effective and a pleasure to use – now there’s a package whose time has come. (And where does one sign up for the testing phase?)

[Image: Condoms by Robert Elyov via Flickr CC]

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

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