Have an idea for a better condom that will entice men outside of committed relationships to wear one every time? Send it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They’re offering $100,000 in a start-up grants and up to $1 million in continued funding to anyone who designs the “next generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.”
While the current generation of condoms are cheap and effective at reducing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections like HIV, they also decrease sensation “creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable,” according to the Foundation. In many African countries, condom use has been stigmatized—an indicator that a man is infected with HIV. (Some women won’t sleep with a man who wears one for this reason.)
Female condoms haven’t fared any better: They’re more expensive, harder to insert, and require the same negotiation between partners to use.
“This need for negotiation precisely illustrates the barrier preventing greater use that we seek to address through this call,” wrote the Foundation folks on their Grand Challenges website.
Creating a condom that provides more pleasure and doesn’t carry a stigma? That’s a pretty tall order and one that may require innovative thinking: An invisible condom like Wonder Woman’s airplane? One that’s grafted on like a second skin?
There already are dozens of condoms on the market that purport to offer increased pleasure by providing tingling or warming sensations on contact. It should be interesting to see what sorts of ideas ordinary folks come up with that condom makers haven’t thought of already.
Are you up for the challenge?