The broken dream of a better condom

Love & Lust 2016: Why two years later, the Bill Gates’ funded condoms of the future are stalled

People don’t like condoms. This we know. In fact, The New York Times reported in a 2013 article titled “Getting Men to Want to Use Condoms,” that only five percent of men around the world use them, in spite of the fact that they are around 98 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs such as HIV/AIDS.

So it is a no-brainer that we should look into creating a better condom, one that men will actually want to use. Latex, for all its usefulness, decreases sensation, can break or leak and for some results in an allergic reaction (more on that later).

The Gates Foundation recognized the need for a better condom and in 2013 announced a handful of grant recipients who had made it as finalists in a competition that saw hundreds of people submit ideas for better male and female condoms.

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Yet innovation seems to have stalled, and so far it appears little headway is being made.

It turns out getting a new non-latex condom through FDA trials and then to market is a costly and time consuming affair, leaving the public waiting for a better option, while millions of new cases of HIV/AIDS are reported every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in America alone there are approximately 50,000 people infected with HIV each year.

Mic.com recently reached out to grant recipient Mark McGlothlin, who created a condom made from the collagen found in bovine tendons, which is said to have no odor or taste and feel more like human skin than latex. While a successful prototype was created, McGlothlin said that to bring it to market would be cost prohibitive, even if he receives the extra $1 million in funding from the Gates Foundation.

“It probably is more than a million dollars just to get through FDA approval, he told Mic.com. “It’s a brutal process.”

While we wait for a better condom, it is helpful to at least know your options when it comes to the ones currently available.

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Latex condoms continue to be the standard-bearer. They have been on the market longer than any other type and are the most reliable in terms of strength and creating a strong barrier.

If you have a latex allergy, you can use polyurethane condoms, which are more likely to break than latex but have been shown to effectively prevent against both pregnancy and STDs. Polyisoprene condoms have also been shown to be effective in preventing against pregnancy and STDs and are safe for most with a latex allergy, although those who are highly sensitive to latex may experience issues with polyisoprene as well.

Lambskin condoms are also available, but do not effectively prevent STDs, as they are too porous to prevent viruses from getting through and are only recommended for monogamous heterosexual couples as a birth control method.

Whatever material you settle on, make sure to try different brands and sizes to find what works best for you. It should be tight enough so as not to slip off, but not so tight as to break, with room at the tip to collect semen.

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Posted by Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.@jefftaylorhuman.