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There are only two ways that people can reduce their chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease - they can practice abstinence or use a condom during sex. Unfortunately, many people do not use condoms, and when these individuals utilize STD testing services, they may discover that they have an infection or virus. In an effort to increase condom use worldwide, Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is offering $100,000 to anyone who has a feasible plan for creating a condom that enhances sexual pleasure, rather than diminishing it.
The Atlantic recently reported on Gates' offer and the motivations behind it. According to the news source, most people who do not use condoms say that it is because these contraceptives make sex less pleasurable. The Atlantic explained that research has shown that only 60 percent of sexually active U.S. teenagers report using condoms, and that number actually declines as people get older.
A worldwide issue
The news source added that insufficient condom use is not just a problem in the U.S., but across the globe. Gates has a foundation that works in Africa to treat AIDS and prevent HIV infection, and he and his team have found that Africans, just like Americans, tend to report that they do not use condoms because they believe it robs them of pleasure.
According to The Atlantic, Gates has drawn criticism for his campaign to create a better condom. Some have claimed that people who don't use these contraceptives because they believe it makes sex less pleasurable simply need to get over it, and that there is no need to redesign condoms. However, the news source said that what Gates is trying to do is important, because he is calling for frank and open discussion about the culture surrounding condoms.
For example, HIV remains a serious problem in the U.S. and in other parts of the world - particularly in the gay male population - despite the fact that there have been many campaigns encouraging condom use in this population. The Atlantic stated that an estimated 50 percent of gay men do not use condoms, and because of this, HIV continues to be on the rise among men who have sex with men. The news source spoke to Mark King, an award-winning author and leading advocate for AIDS awareness, who explained that people need to stop looking at unprotected sex as some strange thing, and see it for what it really is.
"We keep talking about [unprotected sex] as if it's some kind of psychosis, when really all it is is men behaving naturally," King told the news source.
The Atlantic added that it's natural for all people - regardless of sexual orientation - to want to preserve their sexual pleasure. This is why it's important to create a better a condom that will allow them to do so.
More on the initiative
According to the New York Daily News, anyone can submit a proposal for a new condom design to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through May 7, 2013. The foundation is encouraging inventors to think about new materials and shapes that may make the condom more pleasurable. However, the design also must be cost-effective.
"A $5 dollar condom would not meet our goals," Stephen Ward, a program officer for the foundation, told the Daily News. "We are looking for things that are new, but it to be very cost effective. The ultimate goal is a product that people will choose to use, not use it because they have to. It's a high bar."
Condom proposals that the foundation believes may be effective may receive an additional $1 million in funding.
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