Gates Foundation seeking to increase global condom use

Mar 21, 2013 | News

By Tatiana Patterson

A lot of us have heard it before – condoms are the only form of contraceptive that prevent both pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Still, not enough people are using them.

According to a 2010 Statistics Canada report 68 per cent of sexually active 15-25 year olds reported using condoms the last time they had sex. In 2003, condom use was much higher at 73 per cent. That’s putting them in danger of HIV and other STIs.

The Gates Foundation based in Seattle, WA., has put together a series of grant programs — called Grand Challenges in Global Health – that focus on improving health in developing countries.

This year, it says that one of the challenges is to develop the next generation of condoms.

According to its website entitled Grand Challenges, the foundation is looking for a condom that “significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.”

“Condoms have almost universal product recognition,” the website reads.

“There are few places on earth where condoms are not recognized or not available. When used properly, they reliably protect females from pregnancy and both partners from numerous STIs, including HIV transmission, making them a prime example of a multi-purpose prevention technology.”

The challenge, according to foundation, is that in the 400 years since they’ve been in existence, condoms have undergone very little technological improvement, especially  in the past 50 years.

One company hoping to tap into the Gates Foundation funding is the California-based  Origami Condoms.

The company has been developing what could be the next generation of condoms for the past fifteen years.

WATCH a video from Origami condoms on their innovative condoms.

[vimeo id=”50859363″ width=”620″ height=”360″]

“It’s a condom that’s meant to feel like sex without a condom,” said Ray Chavez, brand manager for Origami condoms. “It’s main focus is pleasure, then secondary on improved safety.”

The condoms are made out of silicone and will be offered in three different types: male, female and R.A.I – a condom designed for receptive anal sex.

“The material that we’re making our condoms out of is bio-compatible and non-allergenic,” said Chavez. “It’s a lot stronger and more resilient than latex.”

Origami plans to apply for the Grand Challenges grant this year in an effort to help reduce the spread of HIV in developing countries.

“We plan on making it available to government and non-government organizations at a great competitive price so that they are able to purchase in bulk lots and distribute them,” Chavez said.

He also said that if people love using the condoms they will use them consistently, reducing the spread of STIs and HIV.

But even with great condoms at arm’s reach, it may not be enough.

Dorothy Attakora, researcher and educator at Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Centre in Toronto, said that some STIs can still be spread even with a condom on.

“Herpes is a good example,” Attakora said. “It’s an infection that requires treatment and can still be spread with a condom on. Female condoms are highly recommended, because they protect the outside of the vagina as well as the inside.”

She also said sex isn’t something often taught about and that condoms aren’t the only thing necessary to be safe during sex.

“People just don’t talk about it,” said Attakora. “There are so many different kinds of condoms and allergies. Some women don’t even know that they’re allergic to latex.”