We’re creating a better feeling condom using tough hydrogels.
Condoms are still one of the most affordable and most reliable ways to stop the spread of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and prevent pregnancy. But the lack of condom use – partly because of stigmas such as a decrease in sensation – is affecting the health and wellbeing of people around the world, especially in developing countries. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we want to realise a ‘next generation’ condom made of new tough hydrogel materials that will feel so good, they’ll encourage regular use.
The challenge of moving from having to wear a condom to wanting to goes well beyond materials development. Over the last 3 years, our work has expanded to include engagement with key communities (yes, talking to people who do or probably should use condoms!) to understand why these stigmas persist and to collaboratively design a condom that leads to better, safer sex.
Sexually Transmitted Infections:
Addressing the global burden of health
The majority of STIs worldwide are caused syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, hepatitis B virus (HBV), and human papillomavirus (HPV). And these infections, often silent and without symptoms, can result in serious or fatal health consequences that have long-term repercussions. Preventing or controlling the spread or rate of infection with STIs can not only reduce the overall costs of health and prevent unnecessary deaths, it helps improve the quality of life for people who need the most support, particularly women and children.
The Developing World
Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) are among the world’s most common diseases killing X million people globally in 20xx alone. In the developing world, the impact can be even greater, affecting families and whole communities, often where the majority of the population is under 40 years of age.
The tragedy for people is not just the loss of livelihood, physical and mental wellbeing, access to education and social support – or the US$60B health and economic burden of STIs that can devastate economies and lives - it’s that these diseases are preventable and often treatable, usually with simple, inexpensive interventions.
Funding - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with partners to provide effective vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics and to develop innovative approaches to deliver health services to those who need it most. The Foundation invests significant resources in developing new ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases - which often impose the greatest burden on people's and communities.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sees health as directly connected to people's empowerment. Investing in health science and technology has a ripple effect, helping families, communities, and countries achieve long-lasting benefits.
Expertise in biomedical engineering, materials science, industrial design and population health is being combined from the University of Wollongong and Swinburne University of Technology to revolutionise the condom. The project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Program, UOW Global Challenges Program, and Swinburne Centre for Design Innovation.