One of the biggest obstacles to consistent condom usage has been a decrease in sensitivity and pleasure for the user. Thanks to a grant challenge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, those complaints might soon be a thing of the past.
Researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia recently announced they have won a challenge to continue their creation of a condom that protects against infections such as HIV and feels natural doing it. The key to their enthusiasm is hydrogels, a material typically used in contact lenses and which has the pliable, soft feel of human tissue. For those who object to the constrictions of latex, hydrogel can comfortably expand to more than 100 times its initial size.
So much of the HIV prevention debate rests on the discomfort, impracticality, and loss of sensation of condoms, and many people have decided they simply aren't worth the loss of intimacy or sensual enjoyment. University researchers hope that breakthroughs like hydrogels will make them reconsider.
“It’s really about us challenging our own perceptions, particularly when developing new technologies to be deployed in places like sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia," a University spokesperson said as part of their grant announcement. "We are looking to have dialog with people in those areas to look at social and cultural aspects for design that could be incorporated into eventual prototypes and products.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is one the most recognized philanthropic organizations operating in the world today. The award was funded under the Round 12 Grand Challenges Explorations grants, which foster innovation in global health research.