Bill and Melinda Gates want you to have better, safer sex, and they’re footing the bill to make sure all Americans are entitled to a more pleasurable experience.
The foundation named after the Microsoft founder and his wife announced Wednesday it will give out $1 million in grants to secure the next-generation condom.
“The undeniable and unsurprising truth is that most men prefer sex without a condom, while the risks related to HIV infections or unplanned pregnancies are disproportionately borne by their partners,” Dr. Papa Salif Sow, a senior program officer on the HIV team at the Gates Foundation said in the New Republic Wednesday.
“The common analogy is that wearing a condom is like taking a shower with a raincoat on. A redesigned condom that overcomes inconvenience, fumbling, or perceived loss of pleasure would be a powerful weapon in the fight against poverty,” Sow said.
The University of Oregon is using its $100,000 Gates Foundation grant to create a polyurethane polymer condom with ultra-thin “shape memory” properties. The body heat generated during sex would make the condom’s molecules retract, molding a twice-as-thin but twice-as-strong form of protection to the user.
San Diego-based Apex Medical Technologies’ Mark McGlothlin is going for a more natural feel. With the added grant money, McGlothlin plans to simulate human skin with collagen fibrils from cow tendons.
“A lot of people are trying to get stronger and thinner material—that was always my focus,” McGlothlin told the New Republic. “But the texture of collagen is very much like the mucous membrane: The feel of it, the heat transfer of it, and to the touch, it feels very much like skin.”
Other grantee efforts include a newer, thinner thermo-reactive form of plastic, polyethylene – the same material used in a food handler’s gloves – which will cling rather than squeeze, and special applicators that cut down the time and effort used to put on a conventional condom.
The primary aim of the Gates Foundation is to dramatically reduce the 86 million accidental pregnancies and 2.7 million HIV infections that occur around the world yearly, resulting from the unpopularity of latex condoms, which have been the standard since 1920.