The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to see the stigma surrounding condom use disappear. The foundation is offering grants to researchers with promising plans to create the "next generation condom," however its biggest issue with the contraceptive is simply that many men won't use them because of decreased sensitivity. The foundation's proposal notes, "The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure... creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable."
Today's condoms are cheap, and easy to distribute
The foundation's intent is to broadly improve safety against sexually transmitted infections by quelling social stigmas around condom use, but the proposal's guidelines don't take into account the potential for the new condom to be widely distributed. Current condoms are cheap to manufacture and easy to distribute, which is a major factor in making it an effective tool for preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancy around the globe. However the foundation will also consider less radical proposals that would simply make condoms easier to use and open.
The grants come from the Grand Challenges in Global Health program, an initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008. Grants begin at $100,000 but can go as high as $1 million, and they will be distributed later this year. The Grand Challenges initiative is meant to improve the lives of the poor through the research it sponsors, but if increased sensitivity isn't enough to drive further condom adoption, this new proposal may not have the reach that the foundation hopes to see.