WebMD Medical News
Rob Hicks, MD
March 25, 2013 -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is offering a $100,000 grant to anyone who can develop what's being called the next generation of condom.
The aim is to help curb unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections around the world.
The foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative says it is looking for the next-generation condom that "significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use." This could mean safe, new materials to "preserve or enhance sensation." Most condoms are made of latex.
Other important features include making male and female condoms easier to use (perhaps with better packaging or easy-to-use designs) and attributes that "address and overcome cultural barriers."
Condom designers will have to work hard to get their grant money. Plans need to have a concept that can be thoroughly tested and validated. Test data will need to give clear results before moving on to further testing.
About 15 billion condoms are made every year and used by about 750 million people.
If used correctly, male condoms are 98% effective against pregnancy. Condoms also help protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
Female condoms, put inside the vagina before sex, are 95% effective if used correctly.
Condom use has been traced back to ancient Egypt and even cave paintings in France.
Although condoms have been in use for centuries, Gates says there have not been many advances in condom technology in the last 50 years.
SOURCES:Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Grand Challenges in Global Health.NHS Choices: "Condoms, Female condoms."NHS Southampton Working Women's Project: "History of the Condom."FPA.
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