1 min

Forget a better mousetrap; build a better condom

When you think of Bill Gates, you probably think of computers and of a vaguely nerdy guy in glasses.

Gates, however, would rather that you think about condoms.

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Gates works with Grand Challenges in Global Health, an organization that provides grants for projects that “can radically improve health in the developing world."

Keeping in mind that formula, Grand Challenges would like someone out there to create a better condom

From the website:

The one major drawback to more universal use of male condoms is the lack
of perceived incentive for consistent use. The primary drawback from
the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no
condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable,
particularly given that the decisions about use must be made just prior
to intercourse.  Is it possible to develop a product without this
stigma, or better, one that is felt to enhance pleasure?  If so, would
such a product lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in
terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and in
prevention of infection with HIV or other STIs?


Although Grand Challenges is focused on situations in the developing world, the impact of such a product could have global positive implications.

Reading that description reminded me of a discussion I once had with a public-health nurse. She and I were discussing the fact that there had been reports that condom use was down amongst gay men and men who have sex with men. One of the comments she says she hears is that men find condoms uncomfortable. She would often decry this statement by saying that she can blow up a condom and put her whole hand in it. “Sure,” I countered, “but it’s not comfortable around your wrist, now is it?”

As the site says, “Condoms have been in use for about 400 years yet they have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years."

I don’t think this is a question of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In this case, it isn’t broken, but it isn’t perfect. 



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