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Getting Men to Use Condoms

in UNITED STATES, 30/06/2013

It takes just a peek at the online store Condomania to appreciate the variety of condoms out there. But even if that presidential seal of approval were real, it would not overcome a chronic and serious public health obstacle: Most men do not like condoms. Now an influential player in global health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is getting into the game. The foundation just finished collecting applications for what it calls a Grand Challenge: to develop “a next-generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure.”

The goal is to address two significant problems: unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS. Condoms cheaply and effectively prevent both, but around the world only 5 percent of men wear them and there are 2.5 million new H.I.V. infections a year. To stem that tide, health experts say, the number of men regularly using condoms needs to double.

“Decreased sexual pleasure is typically the predominant reason for not using them,” said Stephen Ward, a program officer for the Gates Foundation. “Can we actually make them more desirable? That’s what we’re shooting for.”

More than 500 applications poured into the Gates contest, which will award winners $100,000 this fall, and up to $1 million subsequently. And in a first for a Gates challenge, Mr. Ward said, people sent samples.

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